I didn't plan on waiting until Halloween to watch writer/director Michael Dougherty's Trick 'R Treat but circumstances, commitments, and sometimes just a lack of energy forced me to keep putting off screening it. By now, most fans are familiar with the long, difficult journey this Halloween-themed anthology has taken on the way to release as well as with the acclaim it received at every film fest it played for the past two years or so. But that was the word from the festival circuit, and sometimes the early hype generated by eager fans and online journalists can be misleading. Since Trick 'R Treat has hit DVD and everyone has had a chance to see it, the gushing accolades have been tempered by some "what's the big deal?" reviews and a couple of "this sucks" reviews as well. But those kind of reviews are useful, too - I like to hear a few contrary opinions rather than just universal praise.
My first attempt to watch Trick 'R Treat didn't go so well. I got through about ten minutes one night last week before exhaustion from a long day set in and what little I saw didn't excite me that much. But some time to myself late last night as Halloween slipped away for another year seemed like the perfect chance to give Trick 'R Treat another shot - and I'm glad I did as while my enthusiasm for the film isn't as unbridled as that of some viewers, I really enjoyed it. For all the criticism towards Warner Bros.' handling of the movie, I can understand some of their reluctance to release it theatrically. Anthologies never do great business - even Trick 'R Treat's avowed model, Creepshow, underperformed when it was released in '82. Then again, selling a movie called Trick 'R Treat during October probably shouldn't present a marketing challenge.
But regardless of whether or not Warners dropped the ball on a big hit, Trick 'R Treat's box office potential will have to forever remain a matter of speculation. It's the film itself that bears discussion and while the four tales that Dougherty tells here are all slight, the device of interweaving them gives them a kick and a charm that they wouldn't have otherwise had. And Trick 'R Treat's technical credits can't be undersold - the production design of Mark Freeborn, art direction Tony Wohlgemuth and cinematography of Glen MacPherson are all indispensable assets. Thanks to their contributions, watching Trick 'R Treat is like having a sumptuously illustrated tale of Halloween unfolding in front of you. And the incomparable Halloween splendor is further embellished by composer Douglas Pipes' evocative score.
Clocking in at 82 minutes, Trick 'R Treat is the perfect length - had Doughetry tried to stretch his film out any longer with additional storylines, or to embellish on any of the four tales at hand, would've likely caused the film to overstay its welcome. Trick 'R Treat isn't a game changer for the genre, nor is it meant to be - it's just everything you love about Halloween in one film and nothing that you hate.
Whatever deficiencies it may have are compensated for with its irresistible holiday spirit. It's harmless, creepy, and fun - just the way Halloween ought to be. With stores shoving Christmas on us before Halloween is even over, anything that helps keeps All Hallows' Eve around a little bit longer - and with such style - is welcome.