Trick ‘r Treat (2008): A Holiday Tale for All

Although the anthology may be difficult to get accustomed to, the film is destined to become a Halloween classic…if only enough people see it.

After a great deal of post-production delays, Trick ‘r Treat skipped out on theatres and hit the shelves in DVD and Blu-ray format, leaving anxious horror fans eager to scoop them up. Because I rarely purchase films before seeing them, I patiently waited for the film’s status on my Netflix queue (positioned at #1) to drop from “Very Long Wait” to “Short Wait” to all of the sudden it’s in my mailbox! Unfortunately, this process was over a month long. Trick ‘r Treat is right up there with The Hills Run Red and Wrong Turn 3 in my record book of longest wait-time on Netflix.  I finally got the third installment in the Wrong Turn series, so a review will be up soon, and The Hills Run Red…well I’m still waiting on that one.

Can I go home now Mr. Principal?

I hate to use the word “hype,” so I’m going to say there was a great deal of anticipation surrounding Trick ‘r Treat. I avoided detailed reviews, but couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by unanimously positive feedback from the horror community. I prefer to watch a movie, knowing as little as possible. However, I am glad I was bestowed with the knowledge of the anthology style of Trick ‘r Treat. Otherwise, I quite possibly could have been lost and annoyed by the apparent aimlessness of the first half of the film. Instead, I was able to enjoy the mishmash of stories occurring in the small town, musing over how they will eventually connect. If I were to select an overall thread that weaves the story together, it would be described as a theme of Halloween spirit—a vengeful spirit that seeks havoc on those who disrespect tradition. The entire film juxtaposes modern indifference toward the essence of the holiday with a nostalgic passion of enriched tradition.

Ditching her Rogue costume this year...

One of my favorite aspects of Trick ‘r Treat is the fragility of expectations. Each small story contains many twists and turns, rarely allowing the audience to get ahead of the filmmakers. The lore of vampires, werewolves, psychopaths, zombies, ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, magic, and Halloween itself are all interwoven to create a film that defies generic conventions while simultaneously paying tribute to them.  You don’t have to be a horror fan (although it helps) to appreciate the clever exploration of the macabre, as the variety of characters is sure to appeal to most everyone.

Pumpkin smashing time!

On a technical level, the film is outstanding. With some of the best cinematography and production design I’ve seen in recent years, Trick ‘r Treat is an amazing visual experience. The filmmakers allow you to taste, breathe, and feel Halloween better than any other film I can think of. Most modern horror films seem to come in two visual styles: the handheld, gritty aesthetic and the glossed over, Hollywood-friendly mise-en-scéne. Trick ‘r Treat takes a refreshingly traditional approach to cinematography, with beautifully composed shots and carefully thought-out camera moves. Every choice is made for a reason. Movement, whether dollying or tilting, is conducted with a specific purpose. Lighting, whether vibrant or dark, is utilized to evoke tone. To match the cinematography are brilliant sets that truly make the holiday festivities come alive. The costuming of Sam, the visual design of the town’s decorations, the intricate jack-o-lanterns, and the overall atmosphere make this film a visceral pleasure.

Flaming jack-o-lantern...nope, usually not a good sign.

While I do have some nitpicky issues with Trick ‘r Treat, I don’t really feel the need to discuss them. Perhaps the biggest issue is the disjointed narrative itself. However, after looking back at the film, I see it as more of an ode to Halloween tradition and an accompaniment to the holiday than as a standard piece of filmmaking. Just as It’s a Wonderful Life has become synonymous with Christmas, I think this film has the same potential, but I’m afraid the tradition of Trick ‘r Treat may only be carried out by a niche horror community. Let’s hope that’s not the case.


  1. I loved this one. It had a really nice 1980s mean streak all the way through it. It would make a great double bill with "Night of the Demons".

  2. Great review of a great movie! I completely agree that this is pure Halloween homage that will be watched by horror/Halloween advocates for years to come!

  3. High five on the technical work Becks, couldnt agree more, while I enjoyed the stories none of them particularly stood out to me, whereas the look of the film was pure magic. Glad you got to this one but sorry to hear you waited to see WT3..