Trick 'r Treat (Blu-ray)(Warner Home Video, 10.6.2009)
The directorial debut of X2 and Superman Returns co-writer Michael Dougherty is undisciplined, inconsistent and derivative. It's also an incredibly well-crafted, adventurous and rowdy good time. Applying some of the E.C. Comics affectations of George A. Romero's Creepshow to half-hearted, not especially memorable effect, Trick 'r Treat fails in its primary orientation as horror anthology. When Quentin Tarantino directed Pulp Fiction, he took inspiration from Mario Bava's omnibus classic Black Sabbath, adding his own taste for non-linear ensemble interconnectedness. Dougherty has attempted something similar, while also retaining the horror emphasis of Bava's film. However, this is where he does most of his stumbling. The film's structure is extremely sloppy, connecting stories, abandoning threads and zipping-through-time in a manner that seems arbitrary, rather than dramatically motivated. The good news? Dougherty does just about everything else right.
For one, the performances in Trick 'r Treat are uniformly strong, in part because Dougherty wisely cast several veterans of his films with with producer Bryan Singer (including X2's Brian Cox and Anna Paquin). The film also features surprising visual flair (very evident in high-def), lively set pieces and a playfully skewed sense of humor, which helps breathe new life into miles and miles of horror convention.
Sure, this is something of a horror movie grab brag -- with sub-genre after sub-genre getting its fifteen minutes -- but the end result has more memorable horror flourishes than a dozen of the usual Hollywood schlock-fests combined. It doesn't always work as a single, cohesive film, but if you're kicking back with friends or just handing out candy this Halloween, this is a great (and nominally safe) way to get fearfully festive. That said, please resist the temptation to get all Dylan Baker on that annoying kid from your neighborhood. Remember, fake blood: good. Real blood: bad. -- Jonathan Doyle