Revisiting the Halloween Anthology Delight Trick ‘r Treat
In 2007, writer/director Michael Dougherty delivered a fresh twist on horror anthologies with Trick ‘r Treat – an interwoven quartet of stories all taking place on one fateful Halloween night. Despite getting buried by its studio Warner Bros., this film became a cult favorite for putting a clever spin on holiday horror.
Reinventing the Anthology Formula
Dougherty throws out the anthology rulebook from the start, ingeniously weaving his four tales together into one cohesive nightmare rather than segmented stories. Characters cross paths, narrative threads intersect, and each plot complements the next.
Nothing is predictable as Trick ‘r Treat gleefully subverts slasher tropes and upends expectations. A central figure appears across stories – the demonic child Sam, sporting orange pajamas and a burlap sack mask. Equal parts mischievous and murderous, Sam haunts the proceedings while doling out bloody punishment on those who break Halloween traditions.
Dougherty’s script shows masterful attention to detail, lacing the film with subtle references and rich atmospheric world-building. The festive fictional town of Warren Valley feels strikingly real, granting immersion into one unforgettable Halloween gone horribly awry.
Cast and Performances
The ensemble cast greatly enhances the strange, macabre happenings. Anna Paquin embodies shy naivete as a virginal Red Riding Hood analogue – before unveiling her character’s darker side. Dylan Baker’s mild-mannered father figure takes a sinister turn. And Brian Cox mines sinister yet hilarious fun from his role as a grumpy recluse caught up in an unexpected invasion.
Lesser roles leave lasting impressions too – Lauren Lee Smith as a lascivious vampire, Britt McKillip as one half of a teen duo in over their heads. The actors clearly revel in the twisted material.
Lasting Impact and Legacy
Upon release, Trick ‘r Treat quickly garnered status as an instant Halloween cult classic. Its critical and fan reception made Warner Bros’ burial of the film even more perplexing and frustrating. For years, word-of-mouth alone drove its growing popularity.
The film finally received its due through home media releases and airings on cable networks like FEARnet. Today Trick ‘r Treat ranks among the most beloved horror anthologies, proving its style and storytelling are timeless. Dougherty created a living tribute to Halloween spirit, full of chaos, costumes, and just comeuppance for the wicked.
The film is based on Michael Dougherty’s animated short film Season’s Greetings (1996), which debuted the character of Sam.
The film was originally slated to be released in October 2007 for a Halloween release. Warner Bros., without explanation or reason, pulled the film from the schedule and no reschedule date was announced. One reason might have been that Saw IV (2007) was slated for release around the same time and Warner Bros. did not want to compete against it in fears of a big opening against them. Another possible reason the film was buried by the studio was that it was possible fallout from the box office disappointment of Superman Returns (2006), which was co-written by Trick ‘r Treat writer/director Michael Dougherty and both produced and directed by Bryan Singer, whose production company produced this film. There was brief talk that the film would finally be released around Halloween 2008 and possibly early 2009 but neither release ever materialized. The film was finally released straight to DVD in October 2009.
Little people were used to fill in for kids trick or treating, since this film was shot mainly at night and real kids could not work these hours.
Most of the Jack O’ Lanterns were made out of either foam or ceramic. An on-set joke was that no pumpkins were harmed during the making of this movie.