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Shelf Life: Trick r' Treat

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Every week, Shelf Life sees Tom White select and talk about a movie that lives on his DVD shelf, one he thinks we should all see.

Trick r' Treat is probably the truest definition of a cult classic. Despite finishing production in 2007, the movie wasn't available for public consumption until it's 2009 DVD release. Before that, the movie was  shown at conventions and festivals, and numerous free screenings, sponsored by the likes of Ain't it Cool News and Fangoria, when word of mouth spread and the fan base grew. So what made this small, Halloween themed horror anthology so popular? Well, there are many reasons, but the main one is one character: Sam.


The seeds for Trick r' Treat were sown in 1996, when the movie writer/director Michael Dougherty (co-screenwriter on X-Men 2 and Superman Returns) noticed Halloween didn't have an iconic figure to represent it. Christmas has Santa Claus, Easter the Easter Bunny, even Valentines Day has Cupid? So, why couldn't Halloween have someone? This is where Sam (named after the Gaelic festival Samhain, where the origins of Hallowen originate) came in. Envisioned as an enforcer of the Halloween tradition, he punishes those who break the rules of the holiday, like not giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, and blowing out jack o' lanterns before the day has ended. He first appeared, dressed in his trademark orange footie pajamas and burlap sack mask, in the animated short Season's Greetings. Eleven years later, he was brought to the realm of live action, played by child actor Quinn Lord, where he became the glue that held Trick r' Treat together. Going about his job with a brutal and fatal efficiency, Sam deserves to be held up as one of the great horror movie icons, but we should be thankful that he has remained pretty much in the shadows, for fear that he goes the way of Freddy and Jason, rammed down our throats until everything that made them iconic is washed away. With a Trick r' Treat 2 finally green lit, time will tell what will happen to the character, but I have the feeling Dougherty treats him with the respect he deserves.

Beyond Sam, Trick r' Treat is really a love letter to Halloween, one that celebrates the holiday with glee. The four tales that make up the movie, tackle a different aspect of the horror genre, and at any point the movie is a black comedy (when the increasingly harried serial killer Dylan Baker is attempting to get rid of a dead body), ghost story (telling the tale of the Halloween School Bus Massacre), or creature feature (werewolves get a look in, and we finally see what Sam is all about when he sets his sights on the Halloween hating Brian Cox). It moves from these loosely connected segments seamlessly, and Doughtery's ability to adapt to the different rules and styles of the disparate tropes these subtle genre shifts demand is masterful. Not only does it celebrate Halloween, it celebrates horror movies, and is an absolute must see for fans of the genre. Each segment could work as fully fleshed out stand alone movies, but in their current form, they are perfectly paced digestible tales that are an absolute to watch if you're a horror fan.


If you love Halloween, or horror movies in general, Trick r' Treat deserves....no, demands to be on your shelf. Everything we love about the holiday and genre is distilled into one movie, and it wears it's own love for both on its sleeve.

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The Movie Bit: Shelf Life: Trick r' Treat
Shelf Life: Trick r' Treat
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