by Molly Schiltz, FILM CRITIC
31 October 2017
If you’re looking for a scary movie, you’ve come to the wrong place and knocked on the wrong door. This is coming from someone who gets scared watching Coraline. But if you are looking for a movie that embodies the true spirit of Halloween, you’ve found the right movie, despite a few holes that are a bit more noticeable than those that help create a ghost made out of a bed sheet.
Trick R Treat, directed by Michael Dougherty, follows four separate stories throughout Halloween night in the same small town, as the characters learn what happens if the traditions of Halloween are scorned. While watching, viewers are able to pick up on patterns and hints that indicate the overall themes of the movie–keep the candles lit, don’t disrespect the dead, always check your candy–and in doing so, figure out which characters are the next to be targeted for their disrespectful behavior.
The film–from the start–tends to lean towards the perverse than the necessarily scary. In one of the film’s stories, a school’s principal kills a sugar-addicted student. In another, four twentysomething costumed co-eds venture into the night for a night they’ll never forget. And in yet another, a busload of innocent children is dispatched by the callous, overwrought parents of the neighborhood.
If you watch with low expectations for a plot but with an open mind for what you may learn about a celebrated tradition (all the while more and more disturbed by the sometimes campy, sometimes disarming story developments), then this movie might be a refreshing surprise. The stories–while connected by their proximity to Halloween night–could not be more different, one from the next, that the film overall may leave you scratching your head as one hapless victim after the other is sent to her or his grave. Some of the occurrences are so ridiculous that you will find yourself rolling your eyes more than once.
However, I suppose the random nature of the plot can be overlooked for the sake of the message the movie delivers. While I would not recommend this movie, it does reveal the true nature of Halloween in a unique way that no other movie I’ve ever seen does.
I guess I wasn’t prepared for this movie because I was expecting a horror movie when that is not what it is at all. It is not a movie for Halloween, but it is a movie about Halloween. Trick R Treat captures the spirit of the night and makes viewers realize that there is more to the holiday than just dressing up to receive candy.
The characters in the movie quickly come to realize this as well, as they are punished for disrespecting the sacred nature of Halloween. The horrors of the night come alive and as the various characters are left to deal with their own mistakes and tribulations, Sam–a hooded guardian of Halloween played by child actor Quinn Lord–watches over all of the mayhem and creates some of it himself, sometimes even to lampoonish effect. In the film’s final act, Sam comes full front to the action, a seemingly unstoppable, persistent, supernatural brat.
Some of the pieces fall into place by the end, but for the majority of the movie, the viewer sits there wondering, “What am I watching?” Here, there’s no easy answer, depending upon your sensibilities. For this particular viewer, the film concluded not so much as a complete movie but as a concept that demands to be as fleshed out as the film’s characters were similarly gutted.
To me and many others, a Halloween movie is a slasher or horror film, but this movie was different in that it focused on the tradition and rituals surrounding the holiday, paying respect to the holiday against a backdrop of often ridiculous horror. Viewers are invited to take part in an examination of why we celebrate the holiday and eventually are led to the conclusion that Halloween is about the enchantment of the night.
We are (sometimes) gently (and grotesquely) reminded of our eager younger selves, dressed up and ready to go go trick or treating, truly enraptured with the magic of the night.
We are beckoned back to this simpler time–those little beliefs we held dear–back when Halloween meant something to us.
In such a way, the holiday still means something to us all still.
Unfortunately, Trick R Treat might not mean much more than that.
Trick R Treat is rated R.
Molly Schiltz is a film critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL