Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trick 'r Treat: Review & Pseudo-Synopsis

When we first started discussing this movie, our intent was to do a basic review for Trick R Treat.  However, this is an incredibly intelligent movie and given the nature of the stories within the movie, we found ourselves hard pressed to be able to do a review without divulging parts of the plot and significant spoilers.   So basically, instead a generic review, you're also getting a psuedo-synopsis (though the one on Wikipedia's TRT synopsis is ten times better, just being honest) along with our review.  Because of this, there are also SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS AHEAD.  You have been warned.  Enjoy!

KELLY: I loved it. I found it to be quite fun. Felt like sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories.

PATRICE: I thought it felt like the vibe from older horror movies like when I was a kid - the first Halloween, for example. Very realistic settings and people and you're right there with them in the 'burbs.... and then the scary stuff starts happening!

KELLY: I'm totally with you, it also felt nostalgic to me, though I couldn't quite put my finger on what was so retro about it. I had read on another blog where someone likened it to what a Tales From the Crypt movie should have been like instead of the crap movies they actually released.  I thought that was a pretty apt description. 

PATRICE: Retro is right, that was my lingering impression of it.  I have to say I was so impressed with the overall quality of it. The look of it, the actors…just everything to me. And it was more fun to watch than most modern horror movies.
 KELLY: It’s confusing as to why it languished for so long on a shelf before being released. It’s a good movie, a really good movie, in fact, so what do you think kept it shelved forever and a day?  (We did find a couple of sites that gave differing reasons, you can check them out here and here). Though can tell you why it was finally released, though. Anna Paquin. Someone at the studio decided to ride the coattails of True Blood.
PATRICE: Oh yeah, and she looked amazing, too.

 KELLY: Heck yeah she did. But honestly, I still see her as the child queen jumping up and down on the bed in Amistad.

PATRICE: I think of her as the child in Piano.  As far as other actors - I have always liked Brian Cox, who plays the bus driver in the present day.  Not to mention Dylan Baker as the sadistic dad, Steven Wilkins - loved him.

KELLY: Ah, yes, the principal, I absolutely loved him.
So, the  basic premise of the movie...It’s a peak into a small Ohio town on Halloween night, where we see tales of different people with different story lines that are all interconnected.

PATRICE: It starts out with the introduction of a couple who are actually the last of the 5 vignettes - I don't know why exactly it was done that way, putting technically the last story at the beginning of the film.

KELLY: I think perhaps that was done because while we're watching the couple, there are things taking place in the periphery that are part of the other stories, so that at the end, when they all come together, you're like A-Ha!

PATRICE: That makes sense.  So, there are five rules for Halloween that are addressed in the separate stories. The Rules are:
1. Always check your candy.
2. Never blow out a jack-o'-lantern before midnight.
3. Wear a costume.
4. Hand out sweets to trick-or-treaters.
5.Never go out alone.

The Stories are:
 1.The Principal
2. The School Bus Massacre Revisited
3. Surprise Party
4. Meet Sam
5. The Opening (which actually is the opening, no cute name for this one)

KELLY: Good ol' Sam. But we'll get to him in a bit...
Side note: the event takes place in a town called Warren Valley, OH. There isn't really a Warren Valley, though there is just a Warren, OH.  In the movie, this fictitious town is infamous as a huge Halloween party central.

PATRICE: it was really interesting how they were treating Halloween like it was Mardi Gras

KELLY: Well, funnily enough, there is a town in Ohio, Athens (the town where Ohio University is located), that really is known for its Halloween throw-downs.  So perhaps this is a nod to that?

PATRICE: I was looking to see if the writer was from there, but he’s is not.  So I’m not sure if there is really a connection or if it’s just a coincidence.  So anyhow, moving on....
The story was based on the animated short written by Chris Dougherty called Season's Greetings - it's included on the DVD.  Right away it starts off with this opening story that gives you a feel for where the movie is going to take you as the viewer and really grabs your attention.

KELLY: We've got Leslie Bibb and the dude from Dollhouse coming home drunk from a night of good Halloweenin'. They're front yard is decked out big time, and yet you discover immediately that the girl actually detests Halloween and goes ahead and blows out the Jack-O-Lantern despite the guy's protests. So here's my question: if she dislikes Halloween so very much, why does she go crazy with the decorations? The guy seemed a little spineless to me, so I don't buy for a moment that he had insisted on the decorations, so what then?  Meh, doesn't matter I guess, but for some reason that nagged at me. However, if she hadn't had all those decorations, I guess the set up for how she gets off'd wouldn't have been as good.

PATRICE: Yeah, I wondered that, too. Is it because they live in this very quaint town that gets all het up over Halloween and they feel like they have to keep up with the neighbors, or what?

KELLY: Possibly, that seems feasible.

PATRICE: It would have made more sense though if she was really into it, but just wanted to get it cleaned up before going to bed (which by the way makes no sense anyway).  I mean, she was more concerned with taking down the decorations in the dark than going in and boinking her husband.  Dumbass.

KELLY: Yeah, I thought of that as well, and how the husband was like 'sure, you can clean all this up by yourself, I’m gonna go inside and get ready to have sex with you when you're done in a couple of hours and probably gross and sweaty'.

 PATRICE: Poor guy falls asleep to porn.  As if.

KELLY: So we see Miss Bibb get attacked by something, don't know what it is at the beginning, and that sets the mood for the rest of the movie.

PATRICE: Some unseen something attacks and kills her  and then when the husband wakes up and goes out to find her...but we'll leave it to the readers to find out how he discovers her, that's half the fun of that story!

KELLY: The Principal story basically played on the fears of every child: bad things hidden in candy, your teachers are out to get you…In this story, a repugnant kid is going up and down the line of houses, taking all the candy, pigging out and just littering his used wrappers and vandalizing Jack-O-Lanterns. Why? Because he's a snot-nosed kid. When he gets to the principal's house and is about to steal all the candy, the principal has a nasty little surprise for him.

I honestly thought this kid got what was coming to him.

 PATRICE: Oh yeah, he was completely detestable. This is rule 1 - as Mr. Wilkins says:  "Always check your candy".  Due to the principal’s ‘nasty little surprise’ the fat kid spews chocolate and blood and dies and Mr. Wilkins goes to bury him in the backyard in a hole already dug and holding one or more bodies in burlap bags.

KELLY: Makes you wonder if he's been collecting all night or if this is a regular hobby!

PATRICE: Good question.  It should also be noted that the kids from a forthcoming storyline come along asking to have one of his pumpkins just as he has drags the fat kid into the house.  Plus, the old man neighbor is yelling at Mr. Wilkins telling him to “get your kid out of my yard” (the kid is actually in the house).  Foreshadowing and overlapping ensues.  Wilkins then returns to the house after burying the fat kid.

KELLY: The story is set up to make you wonder if perhaps the principal has something against kids, not just others, but perhaps his as well. While he’s trying to bury the fat kid, his son keeps bothering and interrupting him, and Wilkins acts really, really annoyed with him and you wonder if he's going to take action against his own son. However, the reality is actually quite amusing!

His son is pestering him into coming in to carve the Jack-O-Lantern, and as the father raises the knife menacingly above his sons head.......well, we'll leave that part a surprise!

PATRICE: Ha.  "You have to help me with the EYES!" Ewwww…

KELLY: Let's just say he's raising one sick little puppy.

So now we move on the group of kids that had asked the principal for his Jack-O-Lantern. They comprise the School Bus Massacre Revisited. You have a two girls and two boys, with a snotty  girl the obvious leader of this pack. They're going around collecting Jack-O-Lanterns to supposedly pay homage to the dead.  They stop and pick up another girl, Sara, who doesn't really seem to fit in with the rest of the group, and they head off to a secret location.

PATRICE: Macy, the snotty girl, tells the story that there was a group of special kids who rode a short bus, it was Halloween, they were all in costume, and they were on the bus riding home.  And  they were also chained to their seats, which was a bit much. According to the story, the parents of the kids wanted to get rid of them and propositioned the bus driver to drive the bus off into the abandoned rock quarry in the town.  The bus driver stops the bus at the edge of the quarry and parks it, and then for some reason, he goes to each kid and gives them candy from a bucket he's carrying and one of the kids is clearly agitated about the change of routine and keeps repeating "gotta go home" and next thing you know, he's in the driver's seat throwing the bus into gear, and the busload of students disappears into the quarry.  

You get the impression that this is a legend that may or may not be made up by these kids and then Macy announces that they plan to go down to the bottom of the quarry.  From there on, it's all in the spirit of good Halloween scaring...

KELLY: The original 4 kids have set up Rhonda with an elaborate prank to get the shit scared out of her, and in the end, they get taken care of by the vengeful spirits of the School Bus kids. I have to say, that sort of made me sad. Here is the busload of special needs kids that did nothing, they get murdered in a horrific way, and now they're doomed to live as the undead in the bottom of a quarry? Don't seem right!

PATRICE: But they get their revenge!

KELLY: yeah, maybe, but it’s still sad. Though, once again, I reveled in the snotty kids getting it. I think that's the leftovers from my tormented childhood cheering for the picked-on girl to end up on top.  Go nerd girl!

PATRICE: Oh me, too, I was always that kid - the one who talked about shit nobody else cared about like when she's going on about Samhain…

KELLY: Yeah, that was me as well. Dorks unite!  So, now we move to the polar opposite of dorks to a group of sexy girls heading out to a party...Two sisters and their friends are shopping for sexy Halloween costumes and dates.  Anna Paquin's character must wear a Little Red Riding Hood costume, according to some custom the girls insist upon honoring.  And so they set off!  From the conversations, we learn that Paquin's character is a 'virgin' and the friends are trying to help her out. They get fidgety after finding their dates and head off to the party, leaving Anna to find her own date and get there all by her little lonesome.

PATRICE: Which I have to say I thought was odd.  I mean, they are trying to help her.

 KELLY:  Just like her costume inspiration, little red riding hood sets off into the forest all on her lonesome to get to the party.

PATRICE:  She encounters a masked man who we have previously seen murder his date in an alleyway...this guy has followed her into the woods, planning to make her his next victim.  You see him leap on her, and you figure she's a goner, until you see her arrive at the party where her sister and friends are…

KELLY: Actually, the would-be attacker arrives first, dropping out of the trees with a thud on the ground!  I liked the slow dawning of realization when you see, ah, this was ironic, because, well, things start getting a little hairy, if you will…the girls aren't quite what they appear to be!

Most can probably figure out what we're hinting at, what with the irony of the Little Red Riding Hood costume and that it gets 'hairy', but still, we'll leave that to the viewers to see exactly what happens!

PATRICE:   The last story is Meet Sam.  It was the scariest.

KELLY: I think this one was my favorite.  Long story short, you've got an old man who shuns the whole Trick or Treat deal, scaring away little kids. In fact, he scares some so bad they drop their candy and run screaming!

PATRICE:  He's holed up in his house, drinking, burning old photos in the fireplace.

KELLY: He gets one little Trick or Treater, though, that takes this tradition very seriously.  I think the rule here should have been "don't screw with a kid wanting candy"

PATRICE: Ha! Well this is also where you see the overlap with the Principal Wilkins story.  Kreeg's dog Spite is barking outside, and Kreeg goes out to see what's up - Spite is chewing on the finger that Wilkins cut off and threw to him to distract him from barking.  Kreeg asks Wilkins what he's doing and also shouts "get your kid out of my yard!", which of course doesn't make sense at first.

KELLY: Was that the dog's name? Spite? Ha, I never caught that, how funny!

PATRICE: yeah, I thought he was saying "Spike" initially.  Well, I wouldn't want to give away what happens when he meets "Sam", but we can say that when Kreeg goes back into his house, he discovers that he is not alone...

KELLY:  Basically the trick or treater gets into his house and starts to torment him, chase him about and all out beat the snot out of him. I guess you'd call the little character the spirit of Halloween or something?

When he starts beating up Kreeg, I kind of got annoyed with something, and tell me if you noticed this...When Sam (spirit of Halloween) first shows up, he's the size of a child.  Then, when he starts to beat up on Kreeg and torment him, he's all of a sudden the size of an adult.

PATRICE: Right, but he’s suddenly much bigger.  Bad continuity.

KELLY: That just annoyed the crap out of me. Don't for a second tell me that they couldn't hire a stunt double that was Sam's original size, I know they exist, I've seen them with my own two eyes.  And then, when the melee is over, he's all of a sudden shrunk back to his smaller stature.  Annoying.

PATRICE: Oh definitely - I wondered why on earth they did that.

KELLY: And then he reveals his face under the mask. I have mixed feelings about that.

PATRICE:  It was creepy.

KELLY: I was dying to know what he looked like, but I'll be honest and say I was kind of disappointed when I saw him. It wasn't a bad face or anything, but sort of cheesey in my opinion.

PATRICE: then again, it would have been better not to show him at all, right?

KELLY: I was chatting about it with a coworker and she it would have been awesome if he'd pulled the mask away and it'd been someone like Suri Cruise the entire time! Ha, that would have been fantastic! That would have been creepy, this super angelic face, running around chopping off limbs and tormenting old drunk men.

PATRICE: Hilarious!  I think a cute kid would have been much more disturbing.

KELLY: So, we won't reveal exactly what happens to Kreeg, I think that's best left to the audience to see, because there was an interesting twist, but let's say that he and Sam had a meeting of minds, and then Kreeg ended up getting what was coming to him.

PATRICE:  Oh! the character is named Sam, for Samhain, I just got that.  On a side note, you should check out the short on which this was based, you can find it on YouTube.

KELLY: Final Verdict? I loved, loved, loved this movie. I thought it so much fun. Was it scary? Not incredibly, it had its moments, but it was more fun. I found that I had a big goofy grin slapped on my face the entire time I was watching it.

PATRICE:  I enjoyed it to, but I did think it had more scare than funny - not that I was scared, but the moments of funny were more like black humor, and added to the feel of it. I would highly recommend it - I don't think I'd say "must see" but it's far better than most movies of its kind - the Halloween myths/legends genre.

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