I honestly don’t remember how I first learned about Trick ‘r Treat. But somehow, a few years back, I found a copy of the film online and watched it out of curiosity, not sure what to expect (and given my feelings about horror films in general I was fully prepared to bail on this film at a moment’s notice).
To my complete and utter surprise, I was HOOKED! Enough that the film remained in the back of my mind for years, until I finally decided to watch it for a second time this month to set down my thoughts on it.
If you haven’t seen it, Trick ‘r Treat takes place over the course of a single Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio, and features four separate stories that overlap in a number of ways. The four stories in a nutshell are: Principal Wilkins carves a jack o lantern with his son; Rhonda and a group of bullies revisit the Halloween School Bus Massacre at a rock quarry; Laurie loses her “virginity” at a bonfire party, and old Mr. Kreeg learns the true meaning of Halloween.
That’s a big part of the film’s appeal for me. Because the stories intersect at numerous points, every time you watch the film you’re going to notice a new background detail that connects one story to another. And of course, I have to mention Sam, the most pivotal character of the story. Sam is, for lack of a better word, the personification of Halloween. He is there to enforce the rules of Halloween, those including: Wear a costume, give out candy, and NEVER blow out your jack o lantern before midnight. Throughout the night those who disregard the rules of Halloween are punished in a horrifyingly brutal fashion.
And yet … that is also part of the film’s appeal. The victims, for the most part, are all assholes who deserved what they got (Principal Wilkins is by far the most notable example). There are naturally exceptions, but I don’t find myself feeling particularly bad for the victims at any given point (not even the asshole kids in the rock quarry, as far as that goes I identify with Rhonda all the way). My second favorite moment in this film is the climax of the rock quarry sequence when the bullies get what’s coming to them. I wasn’t pranked as badly as Rhonda was at that age, but I know exactly how she felt at times, so I was in full sympathy with her actions at the climax of that story.
My favorite moment, and the one I’d like to discuss in detail, is the segment with Laurie and the bonfire party. This is the part that’s always stuck in my brain. From the start, you know that something is up with Laurie, her sister, and her friends. My initial guess was that they were all secretly vampires (and based on how their transformation starts can you blame me for thinking so?) but the truth was so much better. Watching Laurie and the others transform into werewolves to the tune of Marilyn Manson singing “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is just spine-chilling and mesmerizing. The fact that their last victim, Principal Wilkins, is alive to watch this happen (and clearly about to die) just makes the payoff all the sweeter to experience.
And then there’s Sam, who I will keep coming back to given enough time to talk about this film. For most of the film, Sam is a mostly adorable figure (in a creepy sort of way), who is clearly dangerous based on his actions in the prologue, but you don’t really see how until the last segment. Seeing what Sam really is underneath his burlap mask is, quite frankly, terrifying. I’d almost prefer the mask to stay on and preserve the illusion that Sam is this cute (but terrifying) Halloween creature, but I also kinda get why Sam would get unmasked (for that extra scare).
In conclusion, Trick r Treat is one of the best films to watch for Halloween. I guarantee by the time it’s over that you’ll never look at this holiday the same way again. (And you’ll definitely think twice before destroying jack o lanterns).