Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Anthology Horrors: Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Unless it's something I'm really interested in, I'm not the type of person who keeps up with any kind of in-depth movie news, save for when I check IMDB's front page every day, and so, I had no clue that this was even a thing until I saw a preview for it on the Friday the 13th documentary, His Name Was Jason, which I bought when it was released in early 2009. Having not heard of it before then, I really didn't give the preview a second thought, and it wasn't until I started listening to a horror podcast, whose message board I joined, that I started to become interested, as I then learned about its lack of a general theatrical release and how its home media release had been delayed for two years since it was completed. But even then, I didn't see it until the year after it finally came to DVD and Blu-Ray, when I bought the former at a Wal-Mart not too long before I went to Kentucky for a horror convention in November of 2010. In other words, my first viewing of it was after Halloween had already passed that particular year, which was a shame because this is definitely a film that absolutely warrants being watched around this time of year. All in all, I thought it was good; not earth-shattering, by any means, but good. I don't know how well it would have done had it gotten a general theatrical release, since it's not the typical type of film the target audience these days seek out, and it has no really big, mainstream actors, but it feels like it was purposefully designed to become a popular cult film. It doesn't hurt that it does have a lot of things going for it: capable direction, skilled construction and technicality, actors who do their jobs well, an obvious affection for both horror films and the holiday of Halloween, and, most importantly of all, endless passion on the part of the writer-director, something that a lot of other filmmakers nowadays should take a cue from.

It's late Halloween night in the small town of Warren Valley, Ohio, but when they arrive home, dressed up in costumes, Emma makes it clear to her boyfriend, Henry, that she's not a fan of the holiday and ignores his warning about it being against tradition to take down the decorations before midnight. But, when Henry goes inside to wait for her so the two of them can have some "alone time," Emma learns the hard way that some take tradition very seriously, as she's attacked and murdered by a small figure hidden under a sheet while she's taking down the decorations; her decapitated head is later found by Henry, a jack-o-lantern shoved in the mouth. This, however, is just the cap on a number of bizarre and scary events that took place that night, one where the common theme appeared to be, "Appearances deceive." Among them are the local school principal hiding a dark and deadly secret, four young pranksters learning that it's not nice to disrespect the dead for the sake of a joke, a lovely young virgin is initiated into the "experienced" crowd that includes her sister and her two friends, and a cruel, bitter old recluse pays for disrespecting one of the holiday's timeliest traditions, all while a small, childlike figure wearing pumpkin-orange, footed pajamas and a burlap, button-eyed mask keeps watch while carrying around his own trick-or-treat bag.

While the movie itself have never even been a blip on my radar, I was aware of its director, Michael Dougherty, as I'd seen him on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, where he was listed as the writer on the second X-Men, and also knew that he'd worked with Bryan Singer again on the screenplay for Superman Returns (Singer himself acted as producer on this film). Although Trick 'r Treat was his feature directorial debut, it was not the first time he'd directed, as he'd done Season's Greetings, the 1996 animated short that served as the basis for it and is included as an extra on the DVD and Blu-Rays. Since then, he's returned to the world of comic book movies by helping to write X-Men: Apocalypse but also followed up Trick 'r Treat with another holiday horror movie, Krampus, in 2014 (I haven't seen that yet but I've heard fairly good things about it), so he clearly has quite a love for the genre. There have been talks about a possible sequel to Trick 'r Treat and it was officially announced in 2013 but it's yet to be seen if it'll come about or not. Dougherty's probably been a little preoccupied with his third film, which is one I'm very much looking forward to: Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the long-awaited sequel to the 2014 movie.

As this is an anthology, there's no one lead character, so I'll just go through the main ones as they become significant, as well as the minor ones scattered throughout each segment. As such, the first character of note is Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker), the local school principal who initially seems like little more than a harmless, nerdy guy with glasses who has a propensity for lecturing kids, as he does to Charlie (Brett Kelly), this selfish, fat pig of a kid who'd been smashing jack-o-lanterns earlier and who Wilkins caught trying to take all of the candy from the bucket he left on his front porch. However, Charlie, after chowing down on a chocolate bar that Wilkins offers him, while the latter carves a jack-o-lantern and tells about how you should properly observe the traditions Halloween, vomits up a mixture of chocolate and blood, dying from poison that the principal put in the candy. And after he drags the kid's body into the house and later buries it in a hole in his backyard, you see another kid's body down there, revealing that Wilkins is a complete, murdering psychopath. Earlier, he suggested that he is the way he is because of his father, having told Charlie, "Believe it or not, I was just like you when I was a kid. Till my dad set me straight, that is. See, my dad taught me tonight is about respecting the dead, because this is the one night that the dead and all sorts of other things roam free... and pay us a visit... All these traditions, jack-o'-lanterns, putting on costumes, handing out treats, they were started to protect us, but nowadays... no one really cares." In a sequence that's both horrific and darkly funny, Wilkins shows just how much of a sick bastard he is when the other child down there regains consciousness and tries to escape, the psycho having to keep him down and discreetly kill him while being interrupted by his little kid, Billy, constantly calling to him from his upstairs window, the neighbor's dog barking at him, and his owner coming out to get him. All while this is going on, Wilkins does sick stuff like sever one of the kid's fingers and throw it to the dog, repeatedly kick and stomp him, and finally finish him off by bringing the shovel down on his head. The way in which he vents his agitation at Billy's calling to him and whining, including wishing his mother were still alive (gee, I wonder what happened to her?), leads you to believe he's next on his dad's hit-list and, when they head down into the basement to carve a "jack-o-lantern," it's built up in a way that looks as if that's what's going to happen, as Wilkins grabs a butcher knife from the kitchen, hides it as they go downstairs, and appears to bring it down on Billy's head...

...but then, it's revealed that what he just stabbed into was Charlie's severed head on a turntable, Billy (Connor Christopher Levins) then repeating something he said earlier: "Don't forget to help me with the eyes." In short, he's either just as demented as his father or his young mind, having been raised by a madman, doesn't comprehend how horrible what they're doing is. One thing's for sure, though: this is far from the first time they've done this, as Billy says, "Let's carve a scary face this time." Billy also has a bit of an attitude and no respect whatsoever for Charlie Brown, as when his dad tells him to go watch The Great Pumpkin while he finishes taking care of business in the backyard, he says, "Charlie's Brown's an asshole!" This little outburst doesn't sit well with Wilkins, who chastises him, "Billy Wilkens! Language!" But even after the two of them finish with the "jack-o-lantern," Wilkins still hasn't had enough killing for one night, as it's later revealed that he's been dressing up as a vampire and stalking and killing women with some really sharp, fake fangs. But, this proves to be his undoing when he picks the absolutely wrong woman to stalk through the woods outside of town, while Billy has no clue about it and is last seen handing out candy on his doorstep at the end of the movie.

Said woman is Laurie (Anna Paquin), a 22-year old virgin whose older sister, Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith), is determined to help her put an end to that by getting her a date to a party she, her friends, and many other women are attending. She's not exactly the most self-confident person, making her even less thrilled about having to wear a Little Red Riding Hood costume, which Danielle tells her is "tradition," than she already would be, and when they're unable to find her a date, she opts to meet them there later. She wanders around the town as it celebrates the holiday, looking for anybody to take with her to the party, and reluctantly to where the party is being held in the middle of the woods when Danielle calls her up and tells her that she found a guy for her (a big, fat guy dressed as a baby; incidentally, that actor appeared in a similar role as a ghost in Thir13en Ghosts, the remake of the William Castle movie). On the way there, she's stalked and eventually attacked by the killer in the vampire outfit who's eventually revealed to be Steven Wilkins, but proves to be able to defend herself when she tosses his body into the midst of the party. She then decides to make him her "first," reminding him that it's her first time and for him to bare with her, and the girls' secret is then revealed: they're werewolves and Laurie's virginity has to do with never having transformed and claimed a victim before, which is what they all do every Halloween. As much of a revelation as this is, there were hints beforehand, such as when they're trying on their costumes in the store and you can hear the girls saying stuff like "Fresh meat," "I ate some bad Mexican," and, "So what? She had a nice ass. It all tastes the same to me anyway," Danielle at one saying, "Mom always referred to her as 'the runt of the litter,'" and random howling at the party, which a kid at the center of one of the other stories hears and exclaims, "Werewolves." While Danielle's two friends, Maria (Rochelle Aytes) and Janet (Moneca Delain), don't have much to them other than teasing Laurie and talking and making jokes about their past experiences, Danielle herself does have a little more to her in that, despite also teasing Laurie, she's very protective of her younger sister, telling her to call her if she runs into trouble, worrying about her when she's late in getting to the party, and trying to boost her confidence when she's trying to get a guy, telling her to just be herself in doing so, as well as comforting her when she's about to "de-flower" herself, so to speak. Plus, there's a nice moment between them where Laurie tells her that she's starting to act like their mom and Danielle replies, "Ouch."

During the section about Principal Wilkins, three middle-school students showed up at his house, not only for some candy but also for one of his jack-o-lanterns, which he gave to them after they assured him they weren't going to smash it. Said students are Macy (Britt McKillip), the angel-dressed, ostensible leader of the group; Chip (Alberto Ghisi), who's dressed as a pirate and is the most sensitive of the three; and Sara (Isabelle Deluce), a girl with a retainer who's dressed up as an alien. They join up with another one, Schrader (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), who's collected a bunch of other jack-o-lanterns, and they then pick up a fifth kid named Rhonda (Samm Todd), who Chip refers to as "Rhonda the Retard" and Macy says is "an idiot savant." Whatever her mental status, Schrader talks Rhonda, who's dressed up as a witch and is very intelligent but also introverted and shy, into coming with them to a rock quarry, where Macy tells them the story of a local legend called, "The Halloween School Bus Massacre," about a bus driver who was paid by the parents of the neighborhood to drive a bus full of eight mentally disturbed kids into the lake at the bottom of the quarry. Macy claims that they've come to pay their respects to the dead, having brought eight jack-o-lanterns for each of the kids, but in reality, it turns out to be a cruel prank on Rhonda, as they pretend to be attacked by the dead kids and then chase after her dressed up as them. They scare her so badly that she drops and steps on her glasses before tripping and hitting her head on a rock. After coming to, she's freaked out of her mind and Schrader, who was clearly not into it to begin with, tries to apologize to Rhonda; Macy, however, isn't sorry for it at all. When Schrader tells Rhonda that it was just a bad joke, Macy sneers, "I'd say it was a pretty good one," keeps Chip and Sara, who also seem remorseful and didn't seem that into it earlier, from checking to see if Rhonda is really okay, and actually tries to keep them from leaving the quarry, although Schrader manages to make her give in, telling her that enough is enough. Long before then, she comes across as a snobby bully who has to have everything her way, one with a really hateful, contemptuous attitude towards Rhonda, seeming unable to target her very existence just because she's different from them. Case in point, when Schrader tells her to shut up after that comment about the joke being pretty good, she narrows her eyes at him in a bratty, "How dare you talk to me like that way," manner. And when she shows that she really has no respect for the dead by kicking one of the jack-o-lanterns into the lake, it prompts the real dead children to rise up and attack, chasing them to the elevator that runs from the bottom of the quarry to the top and managing to drag Sara to her doom. Unfortunately for them, Rhonda got to it first and, either thinking they're trying to pull another prank on her or being so scared that she decides it's everyone for themselves, rides it back up and leaves them down there, where the undead children rip them apart.

Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) is introduced during the first segment as Steven Wilkins' cranky, hateful neighbor who chastises him about the horrible smell coming from the hole where Wilkins claims to be fixing his septic tank, telling him, "It stinks like a dead whore out here," as well telling him to keep his kid out of his yard, calling him a, "goddamn freak" under his breath. And when Wilkins tells him happy Halloween, Kreeg's response is, "Screw you!" As you find out during the tale centered around him, Kreeg is a guy who has no Halloween spirit whatsoever. An old, bitter, wheezing recluse, whose only friend is his little dog, Spite, he scares away any trick-or-treaters and takes their bags of candy for himself. Ironically, though, he doesn't seem to care for the candy, deciding to keep on boozing it up, and is no less cranky when he flips through the TV channels and sees that all that's on are a bunch of Halloween-related programs. His disdain for the holiday soon comes back to bite him, as he's stalked and terrorized by the little figure known as Sam, who stabs him repeatedly with razor blades hidden within candy and beats the hell out of him. But, just when it seems like Sam is about to kill him, he simply leaves the house, but Kreeg has apparently gotten the message and is later shown handing out candy to other trick-or-treaters who come by his house. However, his torment isn't over, as one of the many photographs he was shown putting in his fireplace reveals that, when he was a younger man (Gerald Paetz), he was the bus driver who sent those mentally-challenged kids down to their watery grave in the rock quarry, almost dying himself when one of the kids got free from the chains that kept them secured in their seats and drove the bus off the cliff while he was still in it (when he emerges from the water after the bus goes over, he's wheezing the way he would as an old man). That also explains his hatred for Halloween, as it always reminds of it. The film ends with those dead kids paying him a visit, with the comic book images that follow implying that they tore him apart out of revenge.

Speaking of Sam (Quinn Lord), he's definitely the most memorable character in the movie, as his appearance is instantly iconic, with those pumpkin-orange pajamas, that burlap sack with button eyes and a stitched mouth, his trick-or-treat bag (although, given the sounds heard when he drags it down some steps at one point, there might be a damn cat in there!), and his jack-o-lantern lollipop. For most of the movie, Sam is in the background, usually acting as an observer to some of the night's events, like when Rhonda sees him after she rides the elevator back to the top of the rock quarry or when he's seen watching the werewolves do their thing, as well as satisfying his own appetite for Halloween candy, when he appears as a trick-or-treater at Principal Wilkins' doorstep. However, it soon becomes clear that he's not as human as he appears, given his ghost-like ability to appear out of nowhere and how the story of the Halloween School Bus Massacre reveals that he was there for those events as well. He's also not nearly as innocuous or innocent as he appears, either, but rather is some kind of demonic entity who makes sure that the rules and traditions of Halloween are respected. It doesn't matter if you're doing anything horrible, like murdering people; if you uphold the traditions, Sam will leave you alone. But when you don't, he goes on the attack, as he does with Kreeg over taking kids' Halloween candy and with Emma for taking down the decorations before midnight, as well as her unforgivable statement, "I hate Halloween." Despite his small size, he's very strong as well as agile, and has other supernatural abilities like being able to crawl across the walls and ceiling, the ability to withstand gunshots, appear out of nowhere, and manipulate any severed limbs and eventually reattach them to his body. Weapon-wise, he uses his supernatural strength as well as candy with razor blades within them and his jack-o-lantern lollipop, which he takes a bite out of and threatens to use the sharp edges on the bite marks to stab Kreeg, before sparing his life (he does use it on Emma, though). And during his battle with Kreeg, Sam is revealed to be mostly pumpkin-lead in his true appearance, with his head looking like a cross between a jack-o-lantern and a skull (a really good practical effect, I might add) and his innards, which you see when he gets shot multiple times, to be those of a pumpkin.

Rounding out the cast are Emma (Leslie Bibb) and Henry (Tahmoh Penikett), the couple who come home from the festivities in town near the end of the night. From the outset, Emma makes it very clear that this has not been her night and she has no love for Halloween at all, ignoring the traditions of leaving the jack-o-lanterns lit and the decorations up until midnight, which she pays for with her life when Sam attacks her and, after killing her, incorporates her severed body parts into the decorations. Henry, on the other hand, is someone who's much more into it and tries to keep Emma from ignoring the traditions but is unsuccessful. What he loves more than Halloween, though, is the thought of spending some "alone time" with Emma upstairs, an activity that involves a video tape titled "Nature Documentary" that's actually a porno. However, Henry falls asleep while waiting for her to come upstairs and is unaware of what's happened until he goes outside and finds her severed head on one of the decorations, Sam's jack-o-lantern lollipop jammed in her mouth. Also, when Macy, Chip, and Sara are going from house to house, asking for jack-o-lanterns to borrow as they trick-or-treat, one of the houses they stop is the home of Mrs. Henderson (Christine Willes), who answers the door in the middle of a house party. Clearly drunk and wearing a fairly sexual cat costume, she actually asks them, "You want a drink or something? It'll be our little secret," and, although Sara is willing to go for it, Macy declines the offer, prompting Mrs. Henderson to sneer, "All right, fine. I'll see what I got for you." And when she walks off to go find some candy, she leaves the door wide open and lets the kids see what basically amounts to two furries having sex in the back, with the guy, whom Chip later says was Coach Taylor, exclaiming, "Oh, yeah!" like the Kool-Aid Man. Being too drunk to hear Macy asking if they could borrow a jack-o-lantern, Mrs. Henderson just gives them some candy when she comes back and sends them on their way, telling them, "Now, be safe... and watch out for monsters." Also, speaking of kids, Quinn Lord, who plays Sam, can be seen out of costume as the young kid in the store who peeks in on Laurie, Danielle, Maria, and Janet as they're putting on their costumes.

One last group of characters I have to mention are the kids who were the victims of the Halloween School Bus Massacre. That whole story is really unsettling, not only because of the idea that parents would pay a bus driver to get rid of these kids they don't want anymore, but also because of the kids themselves. As she's telling the story, Macy informs us that they were mentally challenged and disturbed but it's the sight of them sitting in that bus, wearing these really disturbing costumes, that's downright creepy. For one, you never see what they really look like, so the costumes are all you have to visually associate with them. For another, said costumes range from a brown bunny suit on a chubby kid, a skull mask and white cloak, a cherub-like face under a black hood, and a creepy-looking lady mask that's being worn upside down to a typical brown paper bag with eye-holes cut out, a gray cloak and devil mask on an unusually tall kid, and, freakiest of all, a clown mask that would send Pennywise running for the hills. The least creepy of the eight of them is the kid dressed as a vampire and even he's an unsettling character, from the way his mask and costume look to the fact that he's the only one who says anything, counting the street addresses they pass by like someone with autism (which is what he probably has) and, realizing that the driver isn't heading for home, continuously muttering, "Wrong way," and, "Home. I wanna go home." As a result, he's also the most sympathetic, as all he's able to comprehend is that something is wrong and he just wants to go home, getting loose from his chains and attempting to drive the bus in a panic, causing it to go over the edge of the rock quarry. And the piece de resistance is, when the driver is preparing to do the deed, walking down the middle of the bus and distracting them with pieces of candy, we that they're chained to their seats! That's both inhumane and a hint at how unpredictable and dangerous these kids are, which they all but confirm when they come back as undead ghouls during the actual narrative. You don't see it but you can hear them ripping apart Macy and the gang when Rhonda leaves them down at the bottom of the quarry to die, and when they pay Mr. Kreeg a visit at the end of the movie, the comic book graphics strongly hint that they did the same to him. While they do look pretty unsettling when they're undead, they're photographed so darkly that it's hard to get a really good look at them, and I don't think anything beats the image of them in the bus in broad daylight.

There have been a lot of horror movies dealing with or at least set on Halloween but I don't think any of them completely drenched themselves in the atmosphere of the holiday the way Trick 'r Treat does. Everything about this movie looks and feels like everything that is Halloween (I'm sure if it could smell like it as well, it would). As James Rolfe put it, "It's the Halloweeniest movie possible." For one, there are jack-o-lanterns everywhere. They decorate front lawns, streets, and even the paths in the woods, which is going to lead to me writing that word more times here than I probably have in my entire life, as well as their casting a glow in the blue-gray darkness that makes up the exteriors of the neighborhood and the forest. However, the interior scenes and those set in the festival taking place in the heart of town and at the bonfire party in the woods are lit with warm, orange colors that fit perfectly with the feeling of Halloween, and that's to say nothing of the flashback of the Halloween School Bus Massacre, which is completely bathed in warm, autumn sunlight and feels downright otherworldly. And then, of course, you have all of the other aspects of the holiday: all of the costumes everyone's wearing, the kids trick-or-treating, the various decorations and lights (I really like those "ghost-crows" in the beginning, which are basically sheets draped over and tied to the stands that clothes are put on in order to make a scarecrow), and the largely unnoticed but definitely present supernatural forces like the undead kids, the werewolves, and the ever watchful Sam, who makes sure everyone honors the traditions or else (and interestingly, with him, the urban legend of candy with razor-blades in them is incorporated into the story as one of his Sam's weapons). For God's sake, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is mentioned at one point, and you also hear and see clips from the original House on Haunted Hill (unfortunately, it's the colorized version, which sucks), as well as freaking Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island! Not even Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the "Halloweeniest" entry in that entire series, has the incredible feel of this flick.

Besides the look and feel of the movie, we also have plenty of cool locations and settings to work with. The dark streets and yards of the houses give a sinister vibe to what would otherwise probably look a pretty safe little neighborhood, especially when it's juxtaposed with sinister-looking characters like Sam and the guy Emma spots watching her while she's taking down the decorations. It has the feel of a place that, as white-bread and wholesome as may look, could have some dirty secrets, such as the school principal being a knife-crazy psycho and the story about the school bus and the mentally-challenged kids. Speaking of the latter, the fog-shrouded rock quarry where it happened feels like something out of a creepy childhood story, with the way it's shot, the abandoned trailer and equipment up top, and the rickety elevator that leads down to the boggy lake at the bottom. Similarly creepy is the road that leads to the quarry, which goes up a winding, cliff-side road by pumpkin fields with pumpkin-headed scarecrows in the middle of them, and the same goes for the dark woods, which are lit only by the jack-o-lanterns along the path. Plus, the sight of Laurie walking through it, dressed in her Little Red Riding Hood costume, is not only as iconic as Sam but also definitely reinforces the scary story notion, looking right out of a fairy tale, albeit one with a twist given what we learn about her. And finally, there's Mr. Kreeg's house, which looks like the typical rundown, supposedly real haunted house that every small town has and it looks even better after Sam "redecorating," which includes putting jack-o-lanterns all over the front lawn and painting, "Trick or treat. Give me something good to eat," all over the walls of Kreeg's bedroom in what looks like blood, with a jack-o-lantern on a stool in the corner, of course.

As you've seen from the images so far, blood is something else that Trick 'r Treat drenches itself in. While it's not "torture porn" levels of gruesomeness, there are still some pretty brutal and horrific makeup effects here. In the film's opening, the character of Emma has her throat sliced open by the sharp bite marks on Sam's lollipop and later, it's revealed that her dismembered body parts have been incorporated into the decorations on the front lawn, with her severed head being found underneath one of the "ghost-crow" sheets, with the lollipop wedged in her mouth, and he severed leg and arm tied to the post by decorative lights; you see a disgusting mixture of chocolate vomit and blood when Charlie succumbs to the poisoned candy bar he ate, with blood getting all over Principal Wilkins' shirt, and you later see the grisly sight of his severed head on a turntable down in the basement; there's a lot of bloodletting to be seen when Wilkins, dressed up as a vampire, attacks a woman in the middle of the festival downtown, using his sharp fake fangs to leave her body riddled with a lot of bleeding wounds, which no one pays attention to since they think it's just makeup; before the girls at the bonfire party reveal themselves to be werewolves, you see that all of their dates are dead, with their throats ripped open, and Wilkins discovers that his leg has been broken, as you actually see the broken bone within the ripped flesh, which is quite gruesome; and during the final story, Mr. Kreeg gets beaten really badly, with stabs to the back of his feet and legs, cuts on his hands, and a nasty bite to the side of his left leg, ending up with a fair amount of blood on him and in bandages and a sling by the time it's over.

There are also some pretty cool practical creature effects as well, such as the undead kids in the quarry, Sam's real, pumpkin-like face and how his severed limbs can still crawl around and reattach themselves to him, and, my favorite, the werewolf effects of Laurie and her peers at the party. When they start transforming, you see the usual visuals of parts of their bodies, especially their faces, beginning to twist and turn into more wolf-like shapes, but then, they go a step further and actually start ripping off their flesh to reveal the wolves beneath; in fact, the shots of them removing the flesh on their arms and legs look like they're taking off stockings and clothing to reveal their true selves! This is similar to how the werewolves in the movie Van Helsing transformed but it looks a whole better, as it's done practically rather than with crappy CGI (I wonder if Michael Dougherty saw that and decided to show how it should be done?), and the same goes for the full-blown werewolves themselves. You don't see that much but you do get big, detailed close-ups of them and they look really cool, kind of akin to the werewolves in The Howling to me. In fact, there's not a lot of digital work in the movie, period. The big, wide shots of the quarry are, no doubt, done with green screen and the same goes for the flashback of the bus going over the edge of the cliff, which also involved some miniature work, which you almost never see anymore but, other than possibly the shots of Sam crawling across the ceiling, I can't recall any parts of it that were blatantly digital (if there were, they were hidden very well). Dougherty is definitely someone who likes old-school effects, another quality that we need more of in directors nowadays.

Despite its more gruesome moments and dark subject matter, the film's tone is very much tongue-in-cheek and not mean to be taken seriously. You know this right from the beginning, as it opens with a black-and-white film on trick-or-treating tips that's meant to be one of those 50's-era informational films, right down to the cheesy, announcer-like narrator, and it abruptly cuts and dies as it transitions into the actual movie. What's more, the first half of the opening credits are done with comic books carrying the film's title as the framing device (with drawings and other visuals that act as foreshadowing for a lot of what you're about to see), as are the ending ones, making it feel like Creepshow, which was inspired by the classic E.C. horror comics, and hitting home what type of film this is meant to be. Like that movie, it's nothing more than a horror comic book come to life and is meant to be nothing more than gory, gross, spooky fun.

After that opening with the Halloween safety film, the movie proper begins with Emma and Henry coming home from the festivities in town, the former clearly not being down with the holiday at all and blowing out a lit jack-o-lantern in front of the fence by their house, ignoring Henry trying to tell her that it's tradition to keep it lit. Unbeknownst to them, they're being watched from across the street, and as they walk through the gate and up to their house, the watcher, whose point-of-view we're seeing, rushes across the street. Glancing at the jack-o-lantern, he rushes alongside the fence, continuing to watch them. After Emma removes her robot costume and prepares to take down the decorations, while Henry goes inside to wait for her, she continues to be spied upon from nearby and unknowingly seals her fate when she mutters, "I hate Halloween." Unplugging the lights, she takes down the fake, hanging severed limbs and the "ghost-crows," stuffing them in a box, although she can't help but smile when she sees some happy kids in costumes running along the street. She then notices a man wearing a black hood and a white mask standing across the street, staring at her menacingly as she continues to take down the decorations... until his friends pull up in their car and he gets in with them. Relieved, she mutters, "Happy Halloween," and pulls the sheet off another ghost-crow and throws it in the box, when one of the sheets inside suddenly springs up with a shriek and attacks. Emma's scream does wake up Henry, who's been lying down on their bed upstairs, but he attributes to the sounds of pleasure from the "nature special" he has playing on the TV and lays back down, unaware of what's going on outside. The figure inside the sheet tackles Emma through the gate behind her and out onto the sidewalk, in front of three kids who stop dead in their tracks when they see this. Inside the sheet, the attacker whips out a jack-o-lantern lollipop with sharp bite marks chewed into it and slices open Emma's neck, instantly turning the end of the sheet red with blood and sending the three kids running off in a panic. Emma's body is then slowly dragged back through the open gate and after a fade-to-black, Henry wakes up to a television full of static and sees that Emma never came up. Walking out the front door and into the yard, he calls for her but gets no answer and bumps into the box she was putting the decorations in. Glancing at a hanging arm and leg from a nearby tree, he turns upon hearing an electric buzzing and sees that the ghost-crow there is lit from within, which it shouldn't be. Lifting it off, he screams at the grisly sight of her severed head atop the post, with the jack-o-lantern lollipop jammed in her mouth, and her other arm and leg tied to it by the lights, transitioning into the comic book opening credits.

Following the comic book, the camera trails behind a kid dragging a trick-or-treat bag behind him, with the camera panning up to the right and then to the left to reveal first Principal Wilkins and then Laurie and her friends. After the proper introduction of the latter, as they try on their costumes for the first time in a store, the kid with the bag is introduced as Charlie, who walks down the sidewalk of the suburb, knocking jack-o-lanterns off the fence, when he comes to a house that has a small, pumpkin-shaped bowl of candy sitting out. Ignoring the sign to just take one a piece, Charlie is about to take it all when Wilkins arrives home and catches him, talking him into sitting down on the front step and staying for a little bit. He lets Charlie help himself to the candy, promising him that the knife he's wielding is for carving a pumpkin and he's not going to use it on him. He talks for a bit about his father and upholding the traditions of Halloween, when Charlie's stomach can be heard gurgling and he begins to cough and gag. As he quickly gets worse and worse, Wilkins tells him there's another tradition besides the ones he's mentioned: "Always check your candy." Charlie proceeds to vomit up a disgusting mixture of chocolate and blood before falling over onto Wilkins' lap. He drags the kid's body into the house, blood and chocolate coming up and getting on his shirt, but before he can do anything with it, there's a knock at the door, followed by some kids (Macy, Chip, and Sara) saying, "Trick or treat!" Turning off the lights, which prompts the kids to think he's trying to hide and begin pounding on the door, ringing the doorbell, and yelling, he finally answers them. They scream when they see the blood on him and he tries to get them to stop, only for them to start laughing, revealing that they were faking, and he promptly gives them some candy. He also allows them to borrow his jack-o-lantern, as Macy claims it's part of a scavenger hunt for UNICEF, and Chip notices the chocolate and blood trail leading up from the steps. He eyes the blood on Wilkins' shirt more seriously this time, as the principal creepily tells him, "Happy Halloween," and he walks off. Sam is then revealed for the first time and he gets a candy bar before walking down the steps. Going back inside and walking past the table where he kept the poisons he put in the candy, Wilkins, humming to himself, grabs a blanket out of the closet, along with a handsaw.

Dragging Charlie's body out into the backyard, he removes a lawn gnome and pulls back a green tarp on the ground to reveal a large hole with another body on the bottom. Telling it, "Happy Halloween," he's about to tumble Charlie's body down there with it when he's interrupted by his young son, Billy, calling to him from his upstairs bedroom. Wilkins tells him to be quiet and go watch Charlie Brown, and once he ducks back inside, he rolls Charlie's corpse down into the hole and begins to bury it, when he hears a growl. He sees his neighbor's little dog sticking his head through a hole in the bottom of the fence, barking and growling at him, and he jumps down into the hole and uses the shovel to dissect a finger from one of the bodies. He throws it over the fence and the dog goes after it, but when he's climbing out of the hole, Mr. Kreeg comes outside, looking for his dog. Wilkins ducks down in the hole, waiting for Kreeg to find his dog and go back inside, when the other kid down there suddenly lets out a yell, causing him to jerk up, covering his mouth. Kreeg hears this and threatens to shoot whoever it is but Wilkins quickly identifies himself as Kreeg sees him through a hole in the fence. He asks him what he's doing, jokingly asking, "Hiding bodies?", and, as he holds the kid down with his foot, he tells him that the septic tank's backing up. Commenting on the smell, Kreeg tells him to fix, with Wilkins continuing to hold down the struggling kid with his foot, giving him a good stomp to incapacitate him. Kreeg finally goes back into his house, telling Wilkins to keep his kid out of his yard and grumbling about him under his breath. With that, Wilkins is able to breathe a sigh of relief, only for the kid to regain consciousness and grab his leg. Struggling, he grabs the shovel and is about to bring it down on his head, when Bill calls to him again, asking him to help him in carving a jack-o-lantern. Wilkins, still trying to kill the kid down there, also tells him no when he asks him if he can go to the parade with him later, saying he has a date, and when Billy whines about them not being doing anything fun together anymore, suggests they make caramel apples, as he plunges the shovel into the kid's arm. Telling him that they'll do it after the jack-o-lantern, Wilkins again tells him to be quiet and Billy ducks back in the house. Wilkins prepares to finish the kid in the hole off with his shovel, only for Billy to interrupt him again, yelling, "But don't forget to help me with the eyes!" Once he goes back inside, Wilkins is finally able to bring the shovel down on the kid's head.

After that's finally done, and Wilkins has covered the hole over with soil, placing the lawn gnome atop it and pouring water on a pretty much dead plant sticking out of the soil, he bitterly growls, "Daddy, I want to carve a pumpkin. Daddy, I want to go to the parade. Daddy, I wish Mommy were still alive." Once he's done, he drops the water-barrel and stomps back to the house, but when he gets to the porch, he sees Kreeg pounding on his window from the inside, yelling at him for help. Wilkins, still angry with him about earlier, just says, "Screw you," and walks in, missing Kreeg getting tackled by something. Inside, he calls for Billy, and when he doesn't get an answer, he spies and goes for a large knife on the counter, when Billy pops up from the other side, wearing a mask and screeches at him. Wilkins is startled by this and backs up against the wall, only for Billy to laugh and say, "I got ya. So can we carve it now." Wilkins says they can and suggests they go downstairs. He takes his son's hand, grabbing the knife and hiding it behind his back with the other, and they head down into the basement, Billy hopping down the stairs. Once at the bottom, Wilkins turns on the light and Billy runs over to the table. Still hiding the knife, Wilkins creeps up behind his son, who smacks the table with a large spoon, and puts his hand on his little head. Bill says, "Let's carve a scary face this time," and Wilkins says, "A scary face, it is." He then brings down the knife, breathing out a sigh of ecstasy, and pulls the blade out, but when he bends down, his son is revealed to still be alive, as he hands him the knife. They then look at the "jack-o-lantern," which is Charlie's severed head on a wooden turntable, which Wilkins slowly spins around as the two of them smile at it.

Next, after paying a visit to Mrs. Henderson's house and getting more than they bargained for when she leaves the door open, Macy, Chip, and Sara are joined by Schrader in the street, who delivers them a shopping cart with three jack-o-lanterns inside. They then stop at Rhonda's house, where Schrader compliments her on all of the jack-o-lanterns adorning her front yard and her witch costume, which she made herself. The film then cuts back to the party in town, in a back-alley, where a man and a woman are making out. It's sensual and passionate for a bit, although the man is intent upon wearing the mask he has on underneath his dark hood, but then, after he appears to kiss and lick her all over, the woman notices blood all over her arms and that it's streaming down her legs as well. Looking up at the man, he smiles evilly, revealing blood all over his vampire fangs, and she takes off screaming, running back to the street where the parade is happening and falls to the ground. She grabs ahold of the first person she sees, who just happens to be Emma, and begs her for help. Henry, however, tells Emma that the woman is just drunk and they head off, and the woman then sees why they didn't believe her: there are people all-around with fake, bleeding wounds on them. She slowly turns around to see her fanged attacker standing right in front of her and he throws his cloak over her as she screams; in the next cut, he leaves her dead body slumped against a barbershop, making it look as if she's passed out, and walks off into the crowd.

Going back to the five kids, they head through the countryside and walk through a metal gate to a cliff overlooking a fog-shrouded rock quarry. Macy tells them that they're there to pay their respects to the dead and proceeds to tell them the story of the Halloween School Bus Massacre. The scene transitions to a bright, sunlit Halloween afternoon, as a school bus carrying eight mentally-disturbed kids drives down the middle of the street. But, as Macy says, the driver takes a different route from the one he normally does, driving off to the right, which doesn't go unnoticed by the kid wearing the vampire costume, as he mutters, "Wrong way." They drive past Sam poking at a dead crow on the side of the road in front of a pumpkin field and up to the rock quarry, smashing through the chained, metal gate. He parks the bus just a few feet from the edge of the cliff and, getting up, he shushes them and walks down the middle of it, giving each kid a piece of candy while also making sure that their chains are secured. As Macy says, the parents' plan to get rid of these disturbed kids, "Almost worked perfectly," but the vampire kid, frightened and intent upon going home, pulls his bleeding hands through their restraints. The driver doesn't notice this until, when he gets to the last kid in the back, the bus jerks and he sees the kid in the driver's seat, trying to work the vehicle. The driver rushes up the middle but is tripped by another kid, unable to stop the one from putting the bus in gear and unintentionally driving it over the edge. The camera then slowly pans over the edge to show the back of the bus disappear beneath the lake in the quarry, pumpkins and the kids' masks floating to the surface. The driver rises to the surface, being the only survivor, and Macy narrates, "The driver was never heard from again. As for the bus, some say it sank so deep that it couldn't be found; others say the town just didn't want it to be found. For all we know, it's still down there, and so are those kids." We go back to the present, as the five of them glance over the edge, and, after Sara tells Macy that she's full of shit, she says that they're going down to the lake and leave the jack-o-lanterns by it as an offering to those who died. Schrader activates the old elevator that goes down to the bottom of the quarry and he, Sara, and Macy, holding jack-o-lanterns, pile into it. Macy tells Rhonda and Chip that the elevator can only hold three people at a time and that she'll send it back up with the key; they then head down.

Following a scene of Laurie trying to find a guy in town and getting nowhere (garnering the vampire man's attention in the process), as well as Danielle calling her and telling her that she has a guy for her at the bonfire party in the woods and that she should head that way, we cut back to the quarry when Chip and Rhonda hear a howl off in the distance, with the latter exclaiming, "Werewolves." The nervous Chip laughs it off, when the elevator comes back up behind them. As they ride it down to the bottom, they hear the others talking down below, looking for the bus, but the fog is so thick they can only see the lights of their jack-o-lanterns. Suddenly, they hear them talking about something being down there with them, followed by, yelling as their lights disappear one by one. Chip panics, trying to get the elevator to go back up, but he's unable to do anything and they hit bottom right after the last jack-o-lantern disappears. He calls for them but doesn't get an answer, and when Rhonda unlocks the elevator and steps out, he makes it clear that he's not coming; she then tells him to stay in the elevator and that the candles in their jack-o-lanterns will protect him. Still terrified, Chip watches Rhonda disappear into the fog, and she walks through it and amongst the falling leaves, finding no sign of the others, although she does find the rear end of the school bus sticking out of the lake. As she takes it in, she also sees a couple of masks floating in the shallows, and walks to the edge of the water, reaching for one. Suddenly, an arm bursts out of the muck and grabs her ankle, causing her to panic and fall backwards onto the ground. She sees what looks like one of the undead victims crawl up out of the mud, with another appearing out of the mist behind it, and she runs back the way she came in a panic, coming across the sight of yet another one munching on Chip's intestines. All three ghouls chase after Rhonda, as she runs for her life and trips at one point, knocking off her glasses. She looks for them but then decides to try to run without them, with one of the ghouls stepping on them on the ground, and she's chased until she comes to a dead end. Backing up over the edge, she falls into the water behind her, getting knocked unconscious on a rock. The three ghouls appear over her and one of them says, "Oh, shit."

Rhonda awakens to a hideous ghoul's face right in front of hers, causing her to scream in terror and smack it away. She crawls away in a panic, when she hears Schrader's voice calling to her. Turning around, hyperventilating and crying, he watches them remove their masks and reveal themselves to be the other kids. She screams that they're all dead and Schrader shows her that it was all a trick. Schrader then tries to comfort her and help her with her hurting head, while Macy looks at them with an uncaring, "whatever" type of expression, although Chip and Sara look genuinely remorseful. He then tells them to pack everything up and when Macy tries to argue, he counters, "She's scared out of her mind. What more do you want?" Macy just rolls her eyes and gets everybody to help her in packing it all up, as Schrader continues trying to calm Rhonda down. Finding one lit jack-o-lantern, Macy kicks it into the water and, as she grabs everything, she hears the sounds of whispering voices. At first, she thinks it's Chip but when she realizes it isn't him, and the sound grows louder, they realize it's coming from the bus. Cutting back to Schrader and Rhonda, they hear them screaming but, Schrader, naturally thinks it's another joke. He tells Rhonda to stay behind, as he goes to investigate, but as the screams continue, she has to cover her ears. Walking to the source of the screaming, Schrader literally runs into the others, with Macy telling him that someone else is down in the quarry with them. He then hears the sounds of the voices as well and, looking behind them, they all see the undead school bus children shambling towards them. They scream and take off running, but a long chain making up Sara's costume gets snagged and she's dragged backwards to her doom, screaming for help. Knowing they can't do anything to help, Schrader gets Macy and Chip to come on and they run for the elevator, only to find it closed and locked, with Rhonda sitting in it. They plead with her to open the door, as the ghouls shamble towards them, and she does put aside the jack-o-lantern she was holding and grab the key. She very slowly reaches for the controls, seeing the ghouls behind them outside, as they continue pleading with her to let them in, but suddenly, she pushes the button that activates the lift instead. Schrader tries to tell her that this isn't a trick but she just rides the elevator up, looking at them with a blank stare and waving softly, as the ghouls close in on them. Reaching the top, Rhonda walks out of the elevator and across the walkway leading to it, as the sounds of screaming, ripping, and crunching echo through the quarry, before dissipating and being replaced by the sounds of munching. Rhonda notices Sam watching her from nearby but pays him little mind as she walks off, with him walking elsewhere too.

Cutting to the woods, Laurie is shown walking down the trail marked by the jack-o-lanterns, when she hears the unmistakable sounds of someone following her. After looking back and not seeing anybody, removes her hood and tells whoever it is to just show themselves already. Nothing happens until Laurie turns around and comes face-to-face with the masked man sporting the vampire teeth, screaming in terror. Following a short moment at the party where Danielle voices her concerns about where Laurie could be, we see her get shoved up against a tree trunk and the man, after licking the side of her face, growls, "My, my, what big eyes you have." He then bites her hard, causing her to scream. Back at the party, Danielle points Janet to the "nice" guy she's planning to set Laurie up with, when a red-cloaked figure comes crashing down through the tree branches, landing in the center of the spot. Recognizing the cloak, Danielle rushes over to the body, as the others watch, and gingerly lifts up the hood. But, instead of Laurie, she instead reveals the vampire, who asks for help, as Laurie walks into the middle of everyone, with blood on her neck. The first thing Danielle says is that she's late and Laurie simply says that it took longer than she thought. She also adds that she took Janet and Maria's advice earlier about playing hard to get and she got bit as a result. Danielle then takes Laurie aside, while Maria bends over the man and removes his fangs, as well as his mask, revealing him to be Principal Wilkins. She asks him his name and when he tells her, she says, as she strokes his hair, "I'm glad you're her first, I really am. I like you." Wilkins then asks who they are and although Maria doesn't answer, when she stands up and walks away, he then sees that all of their dates are dead, with their throats ripped open. He screams in terror and tries to escape but when he rolls on his side, he makes the painful discovery that his leg is broken. Nearby, Laurie tells Danielle that she's nervous and she's once again told to just be herself. As Marilyn Manson's cover of Sweet Dreams plays, Laurie walks over to Wilkins and straddles him, leaning forward and telling him, "It's my first time so just bare with me." The other girls start dancing erotically and removing their costumes, while Laurie rips away the top part of Wilkins' costume, and then, the girls begin growing long fans and their eyes take on an inhuman look, as they growl and snarl as well as gasp. As she sits up, Laurie's spine arches, and the other girls are then ripping off their flesh to reveal hairy, wolf-like arms and legs underneath. Laurie's eyes and teeth have changed too, and as the werewolves feast on what's left of their dates, with one who I think is Danielle crawling beside her and inspecting Wilkins, she says, "My, my, what big eyes you have." She arches her head back, as she really begins to change, and Wilkins lets out a terrified scream before Laurie bites into his jugular, while the werewolf beside her howls up into the air. All the while, Sam watches from a nearby log.

We now cut back to earlier that evening, when three teenage trick-or-treaters make the mistake of going up to Mr. Kreeg's creepy-looking house. Their coming up the walk to the front porch doesn't go unnoticed and when they knock on the door, they hear the sounds of the lock being unlatched from inside, followed by the door slowly opening. But, all they see is darkness and they hear the sound of wheezing. They nervously say trick or treat while holding out their bags, when a pair of glowing green eyes appears in the dark, accompanied by a deep growl and a roar. They all drop their bags and run to the gate as whatever it is chases after them, sending them running down the sidewalk in a panic. Kreeg then emerges from the dark and it's revealed that the thing that chased them was just his little dog, Spite, in a costume and mask of his own. He takes the bags inside and, after tossing some old pictures into his fireplace, he's then seen watching TV, although not exactly enjoying the candy that he took, deciding to switch to his whiskey instead. Flipping channels, he finds little on that isn't Halloween-related, save for a cooking show, when Spite apparently hears something outside. Looking out the window, he sees the gate to his yard slowly shut by itself, followed by a small figure pelting his window with an egg. Hearing childlike giggling outside, he grabs a baseball bat out of the closet and is about to go take care of business, when he hears that Spite is now somehow outside. Walking out and finding no sign of an intruder, he calls for Spite, who's at the fence, munching on something, and walks up to him. Hearing something on the other side of the fence, he stomps towards it, yelling, "I've got an NRA membership in my pocket, and a shotgun over the fireplace!" He then yells for whoever it is to get out, when he looks through the hole in the fence and sees Principal Wilkins in the hole in his own backyard. As they talk about the smell and Wilkins saying he's trying to fix his septic tank, a veiled POV is shown watching him from nearby before ducking behind the house. Kreeg then stomps back into his house after telling Wilkins to keep his kid out of his yard and begins locking the door, when Spite barks at the backdoor. Opening it up and charging out, brandishing his bat, he's stopped when he sees that the porch and yard are completely covered in jack-o-lanterns, including a scarecrow with one for a head. Enraged, he's about to smash one with the bat, when he turns around to see Spite barking upstairs and then notices his doggy door out front swinging, as if something just came through. As he walks in and closes and locks the backdoor, he watches Spite run upstairs barking and continues to hear him in the room directly above, accompanied by that giggling from earlier. He grabs his shotgun, takes a couple of shells, and walks to the foot of the stairs.

Spite doesn't come when he calls and whistles for him, and when he flips the light switch, the light at the top of the stairs blows, briefly illuminating a figure that runs through the hall. He then hears Spite bark and yelp upstairs and, in response, he cocks his shotgun and slowly heads upstairs with it pointed forward. He rounds the corner up top and slowly heads towards his bedroom at the end of the hall, again calling for Spite but not getting an answer. When he turns around to look out the window behind him, he misses the glimpse of a shadow moving beneath the door-frame. He reaches the door and opens it, creeping into the room, when he notices movement beneath the sheets. Pointing his gun, he yanks the sheet back, only to reveal that it's just a moving skeleton hand prop for Halloween. A jack-o-lantern sitting on a stool in the corner suddenly lights up and illuminates everything, revealing that the wall and ceiling have, "Trick or treat, give me something good to eat," written numerous times all over them in what looks like blood. Kreeg then falls to the floor when he gets slashed on the back of his foot and, looking at the cut, he sees that it's a really bad one. A small hand raises up on the other side of the bed and Kreeg watches as Sam's entire body follows suit, making his way around the bed. Sam tilts his head at Kreeg inquisitively and the old man asks, "Who the hell are you?" In response, Sam holds up a candy bar and pulls back the wrapping to reveal a razor sticking out of it. Gasping at this, and as Sam approaches him, Kreeg grabs his gun and fires, only to blow apart the jack-o-lantern in the corner, with Sam having disappeared. Terrified at this, Kreeg gets up and hops on his one good leg down the hall, only to fall down the stairs, which are covered in more deadly candy, and land at the foot down below. Getting up, he ends up slicing the palms of his hands on the blades and when he actually sees them on the stairs, he gets back up and runs for the front door, trying to unlatch the locks with his cut fingers. Behind him, Sam peeks down at him from the top floor and crawls along the ceiling, positioning himself right above him. Kreeg hears him giggle and looks up as he jumps on him, sitting on his shoulders and beating, scratching, and biting him. Struggling, Kreeg manages to fling Sam off against the wall and gets to his feet by the window. Seeing Principal Wilkins on his back porch, Kreeg taps on the glass and yells for help but, after the "screw you" he gave him earlier, Wilkins ignores him and walks into his house. Sam then tackles Kreeg into the corner and he falls to the floor, choking and punching him. Holding him back, Kreeg pulls on his burlap mask, ripping it off to reveal his pumpkin-like head, the sight of which horrifies Kreeg. Sam pulls the razor blade candy bar out of his back-pocket but Kreeg quickly shoves him off, causing him to drop it. He tries to go for his gun, only for Sam to grab his left leg and ferociously bite into it, causing him to scream in pain. However, Kreeg manages to get his gun and blasts Sam, sending him sliding along the floor and up against the front door.

As pumpkin guts drip out of Sam's head, Kreeg painfully gets up and, approaching the body, reloads his shotgun. Sam doesn't move but he blasts him a couple of more times for good measure anyway, blowing out more pumpkin innards along with his right hand. Satisfied, he hobbles over to the phone and calls the police, but just as he's connected, the phone line suddenly snaps. Confused, Kreeg looks around the room, sees that Sam is still lying by the floor, when he's suddenly stabbed in the foot. Screaming, he looks down and sees Sam's severed hand stabbing him with the razor-bladed candy bar. He kicks it away, causing it to drop the weapon, and falls to the floor, but as he watches, he sees the hand twitch before crawling away on its fingers, prompting him to say, "You gotta be fucking kidding me." Kreeg grabs his gun but then sees that he used the other shells he loaded it with, making it useless. The hand, pulling Sam's bag, crawls over to his body and taps him on the thigh, causing him to wake up, and then, waving at him, it reattaches itself to the stump on his arm, much to Kreeg's horror. He desperately crawls away, while Sam, after taunting him by waving at him, puts his burlap mask back on and pulls a jack-o-lantern sucker out of his bag. Backing Kreeg into a corner, he takes a bite out of the sucker, leaving sharp bite marks in it, and the old man reaches for the nearby table trying to find something to defend himself with. Knocking everything off, he grabs a bottle and smashes it but before he can use, Sam grabs his wrist and twists his arm, pretty much breaking it. Sam lifts up the jagged sucker and brings it down on the defenseless man, who lets out a yell. But, as he lies there, he slowly realizes he wants stabbed, and he sees Sam lift up the sucker, with a half-eaten chocolate bar sticking on it. Taking a bite out of the bar, Sam walks away from the frightened, confused Kreeg, looking back at him as he tries to process what just happened, before heading out the door, which blows open and shuts by itself. Kreeg just sits there, befuddled, while the camera pans over to the fireplace to show that one of the old photographs he threw in there was one depicting him as a young man with the disturbed kids in front of their school bus.

Later, a battered and beaten Kreeg, bandaged up and with his right arm in a sling, answers the door for some trick-or-treaters and gives them some candy, with the last of the three girls thanking him and complimenting him on his "mummy costume." Watching them walk off, Kreeg walks out on his front porch and looks around the neighborhood: little Billy Wilkins sits on his doorstep, dressed up like his father and handing out candy; Rhonda comes walking down the sidewalk, pulling her cart with one last jack-o-lantern in it; and as she crosses the road, she walks right in front of a car full of laughing women, namely Laurie and her friends. Kreeg then spots Sam watching him by a nearby tree, when he turns to see Emma and Henry arriving home and watches as she disregards tradition by blowing out a jack-o-lantern in front of their gate. As they walk through the gate, Henry says, "Careful. There are rules. You might upset someone," and Emma responds, "Oh, please. Like who?" Glancing down at his jagged lollipop, Sam heads over to answer her question. Seeing this, Kreeg heads back inside and closes the door behind him, only for there to be a knock as soon as he does. Opening it up again, he wheezes loudly at the sight of the zombified kids who he drove to their deaths years ago. The vampire kid holds up a bag and says, "Trick or treat," and the film ends with a flurry of comic book images of Kreeg being ripped apart, accompanied by the sound of him screaming.

The music score was composed by Douglas Pipes, who scored the animated movie, Monster House, and went on to work with Michael Dougherty again on Krampus. Like everything else about Trick 'r Treat, the score wonderfully encompasses the holiday of Halloween, both its mischievous, childish nature and its darker, more haunting side. The main theme, which plays over both the opening credits and the first part of the ending credits, has a crazed, fast string sound to it, accompanied here and there by instances of kids vocalizing and bounciness akin to Danny Elfman. During the latter part of the end credits, it transitions into a softer, much more atmospheric piece that captures the mysterious part of the holiday, which is the vibe the music gives you throughout for the most part, again occasionally accompanied by distant, vocalizing voices and having a very otherworldly feel to it. Sam has a sort of theme all his own that sounds like a creepy version of a child's nursery rhyme and the music that plays during his section with Kreeg are as frantic and thrilling as you'd want them to be. All in all, it might not be among the greatest film scores ever but it does the job well enough to wear it fits with the movie, which is all you could ask for. And there are some songs on the soundtrack as well, which you hear during the scenes in town, but the only one that really sticks out to me is Marilyn Manson's version of Sweet Dreams during the werewolf scene.

Like I said, Trick 'r Treat is a movie that feels like it was just destined to become a cult favorite, as it has all the hallmarks of it, but that doesn't change the fact that, above everything else, it is a well-made, enjoyable little horror anthology. Everything you could want is here: five little vignettes that collectively capture the feel of an old horror comic book, a cast of capable actors who all play their parts well, a nice use of practical makeup and creature effects with green screen, miniatures, and virtually no digital effects, some instantly iconic moments and images, especially in the character of Sam, a tone that strikes a nice balance between being gruesome and disturbing but also tongue-in-cheek, a fitting music score, and, most of all, a complete embrace of everything that is Halloween in the stories and especially the visuals. It's not farfetched to describe it as the Halloween horror movie in that regard and, other than maybe some shaky camerawork in spots, I really have no problems with it. It is one that I very much recommend popping in this time of year, especially on All Hallows' Eve itself, to get you in the spirit. And so, with that, happy Halloween everyone. Maybe I'll do this again next year, depending on how well it goes over.

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