- Warner Bros. underestimated Trick ‘r Treat, leading to a delayed release and a cult classic status.
- Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology, but the short-stories are connected.
- The interconnected stories in Trick ‘r Treat culminate in satisfying and dark twists, showcasing karmic justice.
Trick ‘r Treat went from studio afterthought to beloved Halloween classic, but not all the horror anthology’s stories are created equal, with some chapters ranking better or worse than others. Not knowing what it had on its hands, Warner Bros. infamously sat on Trick ‘r Treat for several years after its completion. Unsure how to market director Michael Dougherty’s structure-bending anthology, the studio failed to bank on the film’s exploration of Halloween lore and gave Trick ‘r Treat a quiet direct-to-video release. Against all odds, this led to the movie’s cult classic status.
For decades, when it came to horror movies that were required viewing on Halloween, John Carpenter’s All Hallow’s Eve-set classic was it. However, using the October holiday as the crux of its narrative, Trick ‘r Treat spawned a new Halloween tradition and birthed Sam, a custom-loving, pajama-wearing horror villain who is more likable than the heroes of the film. With stories that seem separate at first glance, Trick ‘r Treat sets up an interconnected, non-chronological web that sees all four stories melding together. While the culmination of the movie’s four vignettes is immensely satisfying, some Trick ‘r Treat stories are still better than others.
In Trick ‘r Treat‘s first story, Principal Wilkins (Dylan Baker) takes center stage. At first, the immoral educator seems like a decent — though somewhat quirky — neighbor. He even gives Charlie (Brett Kelly), a candy-stealing, pumpkin-smashing teen, a well-earned lecture about respecting Halloween’s many rules and traditions. However, things take quite a turn when Charlie dies from Wilkins’ purposefully poisoned candy. A dark comedy of errors then unfolds as Wilkins struggles to bury Charlie in the backyard, only to be interrupted by his son, Billy (Connor Levins).
After avoiding the prying eyes of his neighbor Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox), Wilkins’ story takes another twist. For most of the story, Wilkins is fed up with his son, and it looks like the principal might kill him again. As it turns out, Billy is just as monstrous as his dad, and all he wants is some father-son bonding time. To keep things on a theme, Billy wants his dad to help him carve their jack-o’-lantern — a.k.a. Charlie’s severed head. Clearly, Trick ‘r Treat proves that the family that slays together stays together — even if it’s too late for a Trick ‘r Treat sequel.
3 Surprise Party
One of Trick ‘r Treat‘s chapters focuses on Laurie (Anna Paquin), a not-so-confident young woman who’s being dragged along to a Halloween celebration by her friends. While Laurie’s friends are eager to pick up men and bring them along for the ride, Laurie is set on making her “first time” special. As it turns out, she isn’t referring to an introductory sexual encounter, but her first kill. At a woodsy bonfire — just one of Trick ‘r Treat‘s real-life filming locations — Laurie reveals that she’s actually a werewolf, much to the dismay of her apparent stalker, who’s dressed as a vampire.
After ditching her on-the-nose Little Red Riding Hood costume and transforming into her monstrous, Laurie kills her apparent stalker. While the twist isn’t hard to see coming, it’s quite fun in a Tales from the Crypt sort of way. To make matters even more interesting, Laurie’s first kill is Principal Wilkins, whose fate is much-deserved after the outcome of his own Trick ‘r Treat story. Plus, the “Principal” twist illustrates why the movie’s interconnected anthology structure works so well.
2 Halloween School Bus Massacre
Trick ‘r Treat‘s second story is probably the most dark and troubling. In it, a group of trick-or-treaters pull an awful prank on one of their peers, Halloween lover Rhonda (Samm Todd). Said stunt revolves around a disturbing local legend: years ago, a bus driver took money from the parents of disabled school kids to drive them into a flooded quarry. The murdered children return as zombie-like beings and punish all those who use or mock their tragedy — including the story’s awful trick-or-treaters. It’s just one of the reasons Trick ‘r Treat is a stand-out horror movie with satisfying karmic justice.
Much of Trick ‘r Treat hinges on Sam’s Halloween rules, allowing the film’s seemingly background character to become a full-fledged horror icon by the movie’s end. In the final vignette, Sam targets Wilkins’ neighbor, Mr. Kreeg, a curmudgeon who shows zero respect for Halloween’s traditions. Sam obviously can’t abide by that and sets out to punish Kreeg for his transgressions. All of this results in a bloody cat-and-mouse game, with Sam wielding his half-eaten lollipop in true slasher fashion.
When Kreeg inadvertently gives Sam candy, being accepts the Halloween offering and spares his life. However, the best twist in the film plays out in its final moments. It turns out that Kreeg was the murderous bus driver who accepted the terrible parents’ disturbing bribe all those years ago. As promised, his zombie victims appear on the doorstep, posing as trick-or-treaters, to take revenge in a very bloody — and very Trick ‘r Treat — manner.
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