The Horror Advocate makes cases for the under-appreciated cinematic treasures that lurk just beneath your bed. If your horror film is publicly derided, undeservedly ridiculed or generally forgotten, you may find yourself in need of… The Horror Advocate.
Resolved: Trick ‘r Treat remains a criminally under-seen masterpiece that could very well stir young, unawake horror fans into consciousness and guide the genre for years to come.
If I was a parent* whose child wakes them one night in a near catatonic state of fear exclaiming, “Daddy, the little pumpkin boy is after me!”, I’d know they’d found my copy of Trick ‘r Treat and held a wonderfully unsupervised screening. I would probably pick him or her up and let them cold turkey the nightmare in my bed, but inside I’d be smiling, twiddling my fingers like Mr. Burns. Eggcellent.
In today’s world, rummaging through mom and dad’s collection of VHS tapes, discovering the strange titles that hold their interest isn’t commonplace. Now, with the whole of history’s collection of movies and tv available at a moment’s notice, everyone is able to discern their own tastes from the comfort of their own couch. This library of knowledge and entertainment assuredly has its benefits but without essential guidance beginning at the outset, the path to an understanding of the medium becomes more muddled and difficult to navigate. It’s why, as children, we are placed in schools separated by grade level and not just kicked to the curb of the local library by our mom saying, “Go forth and learn, my child!”
Curation is key to the process of a refined education (your experience with The Cabin in the Woods is heightened after you know the unspeakable terror Ash and Friends faced in that horrible cabin 30 years ago). Also key is the idea of accidental curation. I sure as hell wasn’t meant to discover that recorded version of John Carpenter‘s The Thing at the ripe age of 10. My parents had to know, me being the industrious movie fiend I was shaping up to be, that I would subject myself to that torment without their considered approval. But the tape was in the collection, and was hereby dignified with the value that it held value with my parents. That was good enough for me.
I’m not implying that you should encourage your children to go and find all this stuff on their own and I don’t believe that just anyone can handle the horror and understand the meaning of The Shining. It’s because I believe this that I think introducing adolescents to the genre’s offerings should be selected and shown under comforting supervision. Some films are intentionally more harmful than others and many films, while explicit and horrifying in their own rights are completely harmless and healthy in the growth of a young horror mind.
Trick ‘r Treat is exactly in the latter category. The 2007 horror anthology by Michael Dougherty is a sprawling love letter to Halloween. It brings together four intertwining stories, all taking place in the same quaint Ohio town, about people defacing and learning to respect exactly why we celebrate this most holy of unholy holidays. This intertwining nature works so well to set up and pay off all characters and story threads that I don’t want to spoil it here by undoing the knots. It works as the best kind of anthology film, telling one full story through the guise of many smaller ones. Trick ‘r Treat deals with the ideas of lighting jack-o-lanterns, passing out candy, checking your candy, dressing in costume, being a little promiscuous, etc.
All of these issues are ones that growing children are dealing with and will deal with very, very soon. The movie posits that growing up with respect for others and respect for yourself is paramount to being a good person — or at least to not getting your throat cut with a pumpkin lollipop. Stars Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker and Brian Cox all relish their characters’ stereotypes while never actually being bound by them because of the smart scripting by director Dougherty. The gore is abundant and the scares are real and develop naturally but the film is never mean-spirited. Laughs are peppered in just as much as the blood and the film is lit with the comforting hues of fall weather so that things never feel too dark.
The bottom line is that there are moments in Trick ‘r Treat which will scare and amaze children and young teens in ways they might not yet have experienced (a scene involving a few pairs of breasts might likely be their first isn’t played purely as sexual, but rather a transformation into one’s true self). The film walked a very difficult road to the screen and was virtually dumped into a handful of theaters and thusly shoveled onto home video. The film has thrived in that format despite its initial struggles but remains a title that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. It is a holiday movie that should be on rotation just like It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas. The next time you watch it, consider grabbing your curious 12-year-old who prefers monsters over football and see if Trick ‘r Treat ignites the spark that could create the next Sam Raimi. At the very least, it should deter them from defacing private property for quite some time.
If you haven’t seen it, change that now (it’s currently on HBOGO)!
*I don’t have kids, but I used to be one.