Trick ‘r Treat
Halloween is a night of traditions whose meanings have been largely lost to time. As Rhonda says in Trick ‘r Treat, “Samhain, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, also known as Halloween. Pre-dating Christianity, the Celtic holiday was celebrated on the one night between autumn and winter when the barrier between the living and the dead was thinnest, and often involved rituals that included human sacrifice.”
Trick ‘r Treat consists of five inter-connected short stories that combine the ancient traditions of Halloween with the more modern ones.
The first story involves a couple, Emma and Henry, returning home from a party. Emma blows out the candle in their jack ‘o lantern, despite Henry’s cautions that it violates tradition. While Henry waits in the house, Emma is brutally murdered by an unseen assailant. This is the shortest of the five stories, and thus isn’t developed that far. But it does set the tone, and the conflict between the old traditions and the modern world.
The next story is about Principal Wilkins. He’s a play on the old urban legend of the man who puts poison or razor blades into candies and hands them out to children. Of course, even that seems quaint compared to some of the things he does later on. This segment does a great job of taking a common Halloween story and elevating it into effective horror. It also has some comedic elements involving his pestering son and nosy neighbor.
The third story involves a group of kids and a ghost story, kind of like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but with a lot more murder. Four kids, led by a girl named Macy, take the local weird girl, Rhonda, down to an old rock quarry with the intention to terrify her. The quarry was the site of a school bus crash that killed eight ‘disturbed’ children on Halloween many years ago. Macy, the little blond girl, is a bully. She not only has an inexplicable desire to harm Rhonda, she is also pushing the other kids to take part (even though they are obviously reluctant). As it turns out, Rhonda, while definitely weird, is not the pushover they expected her to be.
Story four stars Anna Paquin as a 22 year old virgin, Laurie, whose friends (all dressed in slutty Halloween costumes) are all pressuring her to pick up a guy for their party that night. I can’t say much more about this one without spoiling it, except to say that it heavily involves one of the other stories in the movie, and that its a play on defied expectations.
The last story is about old Mr. Kreeg. It a bit like a Halloween version of A Christmas Carol. Kreeg is mean, he runs children off his property and steals their candy. He’s soon visited by Sam, the small person with a burlap sack over his head who has been seen throughout the movie observing the other stories, who takes retribution on the old man for violating the traditions of the holiday.
All the stories are simple, a quick set up then the twist. They also tend to have an element of justice to them; bad things happen to bad people. In that way, Trick ‘r Treat is very reminiscent of the classic horror comic anthologies like Tales from the Crypt or Vampirella. Indeed, the opening an closing credits are presented over comic art, so the connection was likely intentional.
Trick ‘r Treat does not just rely on old monster stories. It takes the new traditions of Halloween: trick or treating, ghost stories, and slutty costumes, to weave something new, and yet still intrinsically tied to the base elements of the holiday.
Along with the original Night of the Demons, and the original Halloween, Trick ‘r Treat is one of those perfect Halloween movies that capture the essence of the holiday.