Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Leslie Bibb, Brett Kelly, Lauren Lee Smith, Tahmoh Penikett
Written by: Michael Dougherty
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language
Running Time: 82
Date: 10/06/2009

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Jack-O'-Lantern Lights

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This direct-to-video horror movie, which was produced by Bryan Singer, has quickly picked up a devoted cult following, and deserves to be essential Halloween viewing every year for the most serious horror hounds. It's a great, intertwining anthology film, and it also contains several trivia tidbits about the history of Halloween. It's based loosely on writer/director Michael Dougherty's short cartoon, Season's Greeting, which introduced the character of "Sam," a half-adorable, half-creepy pint-sized trick-or-treater.

Keep in mind that this is no kid-friendly entertainment like It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (One kid actually says, "Charlie Brown's an asshole!")

I don't want to give away any of the plots, so I'll be careful. Dylan Baker co-stars in two of the segments. He's a straight-arrow dad who puts out a special kind of candy for the neighborhood kids, and then later goes out for a demented night on the town. Anna Paquin stars as a pretty, virginal girl going out to party with her more experienced friends; they're all dressed as fairy tale characters, and Paquin is Red Riding Hood. Brian Cox plays a mean neighborhood man that chases kids away and yells at his neighbors. Another segment deals with legend of a school bus full of troubled kids that went over a cliff and into a quarry. And Leslie Bibb appears in a wraparound sequence that explains what happens if you put out the protective Jack-O'-Lantern lights before Halloween night is over.

Director Dougherty keeps things in just the right kind of Halloween tone: fun, playful, tricky, and funny as well as scary. The story timelines overlap in very interesting ways -- the editing is very tight -- and some of the "scares" are deliberate tricks. But overall, Trick 'r Treat is definitely more of a treat.

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