"Trick 'r Treat" is a loving tribute to Halloween, presented with a creative zeal absent from far too many of today's horror films.
And best yet, we have another horror villain icon waiting to take its place alongside the genre's heavyweights. This small trick-or-treating demon -- sporting a bloated head wrapped in a button-eyed burlap mask -- is one spooky and mischievous creature. We need more of this terror-tyke!
Michael Dougherty, the writer behind "X2" and "Superman Returns," makes his directorial debut, creating four spooky stories that interweave to create one clever anthology.
Think "Tales from the Crypt" and "Creepshow" with a dash of "Pulp Fiction" style time shifting. The result is a smart and wildly entertaining descent into the very roots of an ancient holiday long diluted by commercialism and historic indifference.
The creatures of the night are on hand to say we are not going to take it any longer. Halloween -- ripe in all its authentic rituals and superstitions -- is back.
Dougherty presented "Trick 'r Treat" Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. In October, the film will be released on DVD and Blu-ray and On Demand from Warner Home Video.
Robert Meyer Burnett, producer of the upcoming horror film "The Hills Run Red," was on hand to preview his new trailer and to reflect on "Trick 'r Treat's" appeal.
"Mike has a singular vision. If you want to see a vision, what you are going to see in 'Trick 'r Treat' is astonishing," Burnett said.
"For a first time director, he knew exactly what he wanted," said "Trick 'r Treat" actor Brian Cox ("The Bourne Identity," "X2"). It's great to see the birth of an artist. I think it is a remarkable effort."
Dougherty said he misses anthology films, and he describes "Trick 'r Treat" as a throwback to '80s horror when horror was fun, not just gross.
The film's tales follow a high school principal who is a serial killer; a young girls quest to find someone special that takes a surprising turn; a cantankerous old man who clashes with a mysterious demon; and a group of teens that experience horrifying consequences after a cruel prank.
This is a fun film and a beautiful one to look at.
It takes Halloween's classic visuals and frames them in an abundance of deep colors, flickering shadows and eye-popping scenes of the supernatural. This is one of the horror genres best looking pictures in years. Just when you thought the holiday couldn't be cooler, Dougherty reminds us that oh yes, it is that and more.
Despite making his debut as a director, Dougherty delivers a refreshing push toward crafting something new and fun. He is filmmaker who refuses to cling to the mundane, which so much of the genre is often mired in.
I appreciated the anthology format, especially as the stories intersected at unexpected times. In fact, surprises are scattered throughout these twisted tales.
It's always nice to find a film that can take a situation you've seen before (perhaps far too many times) and suddenly twist your expectations. It inspires several good laughs in the process.
Lastly, Cox is a hoot as the cranky old man clashing with a midget demon. This poor guy goes through hell. The fact he pauses to reload his double-barrel shotgun and delivers some extra hurt for good measure (a rare act in films, but a sensible one), earns him high marks in my book.
What Didnt Work
I can't say too much bad here. Perhaps I'm a hopeless Halloween junkie.
However, the anthology format does produce instances where you find yourself wondering where this film is going, if anywhere. Does it have a story, or is it simply a string of random events? This may be a snag for impatient audiences.
But rest assured, by the conclusion it all comes together as a long needed love letter to a holiday deserving of far more tributes.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Trick 'r Treat," which was written by Dougherty, stars Anna Paquin, Tahmoh Penikett and Dylan Baker.
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