Trick ‘r Treat

If it’s Halloween, it must be time for , right? Forget that. Though the new installment of the torture porn franchise is sure to bring in hordes of moviegoers, the real Halloween movie is already here. Originally scheduled for an Oct. 2007 release, is finally out on DVD after being criminally neglected a theatrical run. I say the lack of theatrical release is criminal because writer/director Michael Dougherty has crafted an absolute must-see movie for anyone caught up in the Halloween spirit.

What makes such an interesting film is that it takes an approach to storytelling that is not often seen in feature-length movies. The film is broken into four distinct short stories, each one intertwining with the others in various ways. Other movies typically have more than one storyline running at once, but they happen simultaneously and come together to culminate in some final conclusion at the end. Trick ‘r Treat feels more like an anthology – four completely separate stories that happen to run into each other in very inventive and unexpected ways.

The idea for originated from Dougherty’s animated short feature, “Season’s Greetings,” that was released back in 1996. The story focuses on Sam, a costumed kid who is out past midnight trick-or-treating. Sam eventually walks down an alleyway and becomes cornered by an unknown stalker who follows him in. The audience is led to believe this is the end of Sam, but it turns out there is something more sinister about Sam than we realize. This four-minute hand-drawn cartoon became the basis for creating the character of Sam for the final film.

The less you know about the stories going into , the better. Avoid reading too much about plot points before seeing it because Dougherty has done a wonderful job of writing a screenplay with twists that are clever and not convoluted. Just know there are enough gross-out moments for gore hounds, along with plenty of dark humor and ghoulishness to really capture the mood of Halloween.

And that’s what Trick ‘r Treat does better than anything else – nail the Halloween spirit. Everything about the film oozes Oct. 31 thanks to Dougherty’s smart directing and obvious love for the holiday. Cinematographer Glen MacPherson is also highly commended for shooting such a surprisingly beautiful film. For a movie that takes place almost entirely at night, it is shockingly colorful, focusing clearly on oranges and yellows to further enhance the mood.

Another element that plays an enormous role in how the film is perceived is the editing. With four main storylines to cut between, the editing has a huge effect on the end product. Choosing when to tell what part of which story could become tricky and confusing for the audience, but manages to slide between stories with ease and without ever throwing the audience off.

As for the acting, there are certainly some familiar faces among the cast, including Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox. Considering the high caliber of actors in the film, it is no surprise that the acting is consistently solid. Even the younger and lesser known actors are able to pull off great performances.

The only real problem people might have with is that it is not very scary, at least not in the modern “boo!” sense. relies more on storytelling, creepiness and unsettling scenes rather than full-blown scares, and while I consider that a wonderful thing, horror fans looking for more pop-out-at-you type material will need to look elsewhere.

While 2009 has already seen some solid horror flicks (especially Sam Raimi’s excellent ), takes the cake as being the most enjoyable, even if not the scariest, horror film of the year.