Friday, November 5, 2010

Trick 'r Treat

Written by Joe the Revelator

Trick 'r Treat

Lately I’ve been disappointed by horror movies. We’ve had a long stream of big budget remakes, re-chewed like so much Hollywood cud, and fed back to us still bearing the original titles; Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine. Were these plots so original, so exquisitely crafted that no modern storyteller could hope to rival them? How about the subsequent sequels (12 for Friday, 9 for Nightmare, 10 for Halloween) that dribbled out years after their release?

On the other side of the franchise tugboats are the more formulaic chase-and-chop thrillers, most of which are shoveled out as ‘strait to dvd’ rental exclusives, aimed toward the casual couch-bound horror fan who doesn’t mind feeding the B-Movie machine. There’s also an increasing popularity in torture porn, like Hostel and Saw, which feature gory what-if situations that could have sprung from the minds of demented construction workers. And if you like watching exorcisms, there’s a whole slew of newer, less edgy retreads of the original Exorcist, guaranteed to horrify preteen girls and devout Catholics.

Horror movies; the reason we can’t have nice things?

I submit that it is not the genre that is in deficit, but the writing. Old and new, there are some great thriller flicks waiting to be found; just not the ones that features a screamy pair of breasts that limp weakly away from the champion-power-walker murderers.

Trick 'r Treat follows the rarer path of campfire storytelling in which several horror pulps are mashed together into a scary movie, one that blessedly doesn’t take itself too seriously. The theme of the movie and the drive of its cast is the strict adherence to old Halloween rules, which we’ve gradually forgotten over the years. Keep jack-o-lanterns lit. Offer treats to appease the ghouls. Respect the dead. And always inspect your candy.

Not since Tales from the Hood has there been a more shameless slaughter of the unwary, told on a case-by-case basis. The elementary school principal is killing his students and stalking the youth of the town, who in turn suffers a run-in with adolescent werewolves. The trick or treaters’ are playing deadly pranks on each other, the curmudgeonly neighbor really is a crazy old creep with a terrible secret, the candy is poisoned, and the goblins are running amuck.

Trick 'r Treat doesn’t so much rely on heart-stopping thrill moments where the score cues you up for a scare. It’s more about nostalgia, bringing you back to small town comfort zones, and slowly twisting those comforts back around on you. This is one of those rare movies that can drag you back to your childhood when everything was still spooky at night, when your fresh mind could actually imagine a witch living in the abandoned house across the street.

And the credits roll...

Rent Trick 'r Treat, because it might be the first or last time you won’t be lying to your date when you say “It’s really not too scary,” or “the storytelling’s actually good.”

Since I dropped so many horrors, here are a few others I recommend:

High Tension, The Descent, Pandorum, Dawn of the Dead (remake), Shawn of the Dead (comedy), Silent Hill, 30 Days of Night, House on Haunted Hill (remake), 13 Ghosts (remake), Wrong Turn, Cabin Fever, 28 Days Later, Event Horizon

1 comment:

  1. Trick 'r Treat was a great movie. Alternatingly scary, funny, and grotesquely interesting, and sometimes all at the same time.

    I will also put in a good word for the first Saw movie, which is actually pretty decent. The original House on Haunted Hill is worthwhile if you enjoy older movies.