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Film
Is it me, or does Halloween seem to get the short shrift when it comes to holiday themed movies? Sure there are scary movies released at this time every year, but I'm talking about movies that are actually about all of the spooky, pumpkin soaked traditions associated with the most commercial holiday this side of Christmas or whatever it's politically correct to call it these days (speaking of which, when did Halloween Parties start being referred to as "Harvest Parties"?). Halloween and it's numerous sequels are easy to point out but are mostly tangentially related to the holiday, and I guess there was that '80s movie with Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons whose title I can't seem to recall at the moment, but I'm hard pressed to come up with very many others.

Trick 'R Treat
Maybe even more rare these days is the horror anthology or omnibus, movies like Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror that Amicus was pumping out back in the late '60s and early '70s and George A. Romero and Stephen King's Creepshow from 1982. Each with their own set of frightening, bite-sized stories with big-sized payoffs, these films were fairly popular for a time and have all but disappeared from the theatrical landscape. You'd think with the way that today's movies cater to the more ADD addled amongst us that the shorter stories in these films would be a boon to more of them being made, so what happened to the sub-genre?

If you wondering these and possibly other questions, you can thank your lucky stars for Trick 'R Treat. Here's an honest to goodness Halloween themed film that is an anthology of related scary stores--a principal with a serial killer attitude teaches one neighbor the true meaning of Halloween; Laurie, a young woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, is stalked by a mysterious hooded figure at the local Halloween festival; a group of pranksters goes too far and discovers the horrifying truth buried in a local urban legend; and a cantankerous old hermit is visited by a strange trick 'r treater with a few bones to pick. Tying all of these stories together is the presence of Sam, a mysterious pint-sized trick 'r treater with a burlap pumpkin mask.

Trick 'R Treat
Simply put, Trick 'R Treat is a fun horror film that does a fine job of capturing the Halloween spirit and distilling it into an 82-minute running time. The film is a little different than your typical anthology piece in that it isn't told in a linear fashion and switches from story to story and back again throughout, but this device works in its favor although it would have been a neat extra on the disc if there were an option to watch each story in succession.

It's also a film that practically demands to be watched a second time immediately following the first viewing and a bit more fun during the second go around to boot. I'm not going to even dare give away anything in this review, but much of the dialogue and scenes in the movie take on a completely different meaning once you've either witnessed or figured out the twists and surprises and you'll notice a lot more of what is lurking in the background as the stories intersect each other throughout.

Performances are typically good throughout, and the cast hits the right notes of humor and horror when called for. Particularly effective for me was Dylan Baker playing the principal mentioned in the synopsis above. I say for me because he reminded me much of my own junior high school principal while growing up in small town Ohio, which coincidentally (or not?) is where the movie takes place. Brian Cox also plays his curmudgeon with a secret role to the hilt in the movie's best piece and in a role that would have been perfect for Peter Cushing had this film been made during the heyday of the Amicus omnibus features.

My one regret concerning Trick 'R Treat has nothing to do with the film itself, but the fact that this would have been a great movie to see with a large crowd and I was not fortunate enough to see it during its limited showings around the country over the past couple of years. It has everything a good Halloween film should have--scares, humor, decent special effects and good performances from its cast. If you're planning on sitting down with a few friends for some horror movie watching this Halloween weekend and haven't yet given it a shot I definitely recommend Trick 'R Treat for a good time.

Trick 'R Treat
Video
Warner Home Video presents Trick 'R Treat with a 1080p VC-1 transfer at the film's theatrically intended 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and the resulting transfer is very good. The one thing that will strike even casual viewers is the movie's cinematography with its warm, autumn inspired color palette and great use of shadows that beg for all sorts of nasties to be hiding within them, which sort of serves as proof that this movie was not intended for its straight-to-video destiny. The disc's transfer holds up very nice with deep and consistent blacks, very natural skin tones on the actors and color that pops off the screen when called for. It was hard to notice anything obviously wrong with the picture such as heavy noise reduction, aliasing or edge enhancement, and given that this is a fairly new feature artifacting is really non-existent here. Overall this is another quality transfer from Warner.

Audio
Another sign of the film's theatrical aspirations is the supplied Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that is leaps and bounds better than what you normally get from straight-to-video releases. Dialogue is crisp and clear coming from the center channel, the LFE is surprisingly robust at the right moments, and the sound design makes good use of the surround channels to immerse viewers right smack dab in the middle of this neighborhood gone to hell on All Hallows' Eve. The score to the film from composer Douglas Pipes is amusing and playful for the most part and down right vicious when it needs to be fitting the picture's tone almost perfectly. Like the video transfer, the audio presentation is first rate.

Trick 'R Treat
Extras
Trick 'R Treat represents another example of studios starting to hold extras from their DVDs and making them exclusively available on Blu-ray, and in this instance that's the equivalent to getting pennies or bible pamphlets in your trick 'r treat bag as a kid. The sole feature on the DVD version is the animated short and inspiration for the feature length film, which is also included here and I will get to it shortly.

Lucky Blu-ray player owners get a nice batch of extras to dig into, starting off with a decent commentary track featuring director Michael Dougherty, composer Douglas Pipes, concept artist Breehn Burns and storyboard artist Simeon Wilkins. There is a lot of good information to be found in the track about the production and releasing of the film and while the commentators try their best to help point out things within the film you might have missed, the track does seem to go quiet for small stretches of time. Not a bad track, but far from the best the format has offered in the past.

All of the featurettes on the disc are in standard definition, but there's some good stuff to be found. The first, Trick 'R Treat: The Legends and Lore of Halloween (approximately 30-minutes), explores the background of America's favorite non-official holiday while also inter-cutting the film's development and special effects. Next up is the animated short and inspiration for the feature-length film, entitled Seasons Greeting (5-minutes), which follows the character of Sam on trick 'r treat night. Originally created in 1996, this is a fun little short that also includes an optional commentary track with Michael Dougherty. The remaining features include additional scenes cut from the film that are mostly made up of extended or slightly modified scenes and an exploration of the computer effects used during a pivotal scene involving a school bus full of children. Also included on a separate disc is a digital copy of the film and the Blu-ray disc is also BD-Live enabled.

Trick 'R Treat
Overall
I really never thought I'd see the day where the best horror film of the year was a straight-to-video release, but that's just what Trick 'R Treat is. The film makes for a very entertaining and spooky hour-and-a-half spent in a darkened room with lots of buttered popcorn and your favorite beverage, preferably with a few friends to share in the scares and laughter. Warner Home Video's Blu-ray disc has a good audio and video presentation and the extras are a decent bag of treats that owners of the standard DVD miss out on with the exception of one feature. Given the quality of the film and the disc, and coupled with the fact that multiple viewings are not only warranted but necessary in order to get everything out of the movie, I can easily recommend a purchase on this one.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray.


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