Trick 'r Treat (2009)
Writer/director Michael Dougherty's love letter to all things Halloween is a terrific old-fashioned fun, and funny, creep fest. This anthology of four stories is set in a little town on Halloween night and plays a bit like a scary Pulp Fiction in its non-linear style and the fact that characters will appear at the edges of one vignette only to be fully featured in one of the other stories.
The creepy tales follow a school principal (Dylan Baker from Spider-Man 2 and Happiness) who hands out some very unsafe candy; a 21 year old virgin (Anna Paquin) who dresses like Little Red Riding Hood (a very sexy LRRH) to go to a party with her big sister and her friends; five young teens who go to the local rock quarry to visit the site of a legendary school bus massacre of 30 years earlier which claimed the lives of eight very disturbed children; and a crazy old man (Brian Cox) who runs afoul of Sam, the little boy with the burlap sack mask. Sam with his dirty old costume appears in every story, a silent witness to the grim happenings. (Depending on which DVD you get, the cover might give away Sam's "uniqueness." BE WARNED!)
This movie has a great timeless quality about it. With the exception of one kid's mask that resembled the killer in Scream, all the costumes are based on traditional Halloween themes: vampires, robots, angels, ghosts, ghouls, pirates and witches. Paquin and her friends dress up as fairy tale characters: the former is Red Riding Hood, while the latter are princesses (albeit of a Disney-ish variety). There's not a Leatherface, Jason, Freddy K., Jigsaw or Pinhead in sight. The fact that most Halloween haunted houses are inspired by the exploits of those gents, it's nice to see someone take a different approach.
Its R-Rating is earned with a bit of nudity and some sexual situations, which can be easily edited for broadcast TV. The killings aren't particularly gory - we don't see heads being lopped off, limbs being hacked or blood gushing all over the place, although there are severed heads and limbs featured in the movie. The tone of the stories are more good, fun scares and creeps - they make you squeel with delight rather than revulsion - more in line with Creepshow and classic horror comics - where (mostly) bad people get their comeuppance - rather than the latest edition of The Last Hostel Chainsaw Creek. For every creepy moment, as when one character walks in a room to find bloody scribbles on the ceiling and walls reading "Trick 'r Treat" and other Halloween sayings, there is a moment of dark humor, as when another character tries to put down a body that just won't die with many whacks of a shovel.
This is no micro-budget effort either, with top knotch production values - the main street all decked out for Halloween makes you want "to go to there," great camera work, and a first-rate cast. I guess it helps when you co-write one of the more popular and profitable superhero movies (X2: X-Men United) and its director (Bryan Singer) produces your film.
Trick 'r Treat deserves to be a Halloween perennial, alongside It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Nightmare Before Christmas.