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Ten Words Or Less Review: Entertaining horror throwback that doesn’t play to the cheap seats.

For two years now, film websites like AICN and CHUD have been lobbying for the release of “Trick ‘r Treat”, a crafty little horror film that’s not a sequel, a remake or a reboot of any previously existing movie property.  God forbid.  This fact is very likely why Warner Brothers stubbornly refused to give the film a theatrical release of any kind and has now unceremoniously released it to DVD and Blu Ray.  It seems originality must be crushed and shunned at all times in today’s Hollywood.   Finally available for all to see outside of the festival circuit, “Trick ‘r Treat” is a devious little horror film made in a pseudo anthology style with a neat script and skilled hand behind the camera.  And while it may not blow people out of the water, it achieves a certain style and mood few horror films reach, or even try, that being fun.

Not being a crass sequel (Saw movies) or cheap remake (tons of them), “Trick ‘r Treat” is a throwback to horror anthologies and short story collections such as “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Crypt.”  Set in a small town whose residents all relish the Halloween season, “Trick” follows the stories of a homicidal maniac with a loud son, some nasty school kids, a Halloween hating neighbor, a virginal girl in a Little Red Riding outfit trying to find Mr. Right, all of whom are being observed by a strange kid wearing a big round bag on his head.  All of these stories are skillfully wrapped around one another, tying into the other thorough good editing.  It would’ve been easy to simply end one story and start the next, but as directed by Michael Daugherty, he takes this more elaborate approach and has each tale fit into the other at key moments, ultimately wrapping the whole thing back around to the beginning.  Producer, and one time cinematic trickster Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects), no doubt loved this approach.  The best part about “Trick” is that it doesn’t rely on an overabundance of gore, there is some, or cheap editing scares.  What works best about it is that it runs on genuinely nasty acts being performed by those who don’t seem terribly nasty to start with.  Unlike so many horror pieces where our sympathies are always clearly spelled out, “Trick” pulls the rug out from under us on more than one occasion.  No one is innocent and no one can be trusted.  This is after all a horror film.

One other thing that likely held the studio back from releasing the film theatrically is that this cast is strictly made up of character actors and unknowns.  The banal cattle that typically frequent these movies are mercifully absent.  Stalwart pros like Dylan Baker (Spiderman films), Bryan Cox (X2, Manhunter) and Anna Paquin (True Blood) tackle the material like ghoulish enthusiasm.  Though this may not be much more than a Halloween genre lark, no one phones it on or hams it up.  Baker is especially nasty as school principal who takes advantage of the season in his own unique way.

“Trick ‘r Treat” will probably be the real deal when it comes to establishing cult classic status.  Unreleased, unseen and unappreciated by many is how the formula usually works.  While it doesn’t redefine the genre, it plays out with a kind of entertaining spirit few horror films can achieve.  It very much has the mentality of a better 80’s movie.  Much of the genre for the past decade could be described as bleak, disgusting and stupid.  Dreary exercises in torture and pain that serve no other purpose to sedate blood lust in lesser beings and make the rest of the audience squirm and feel awful.  “Trick ‘r Treat” is a horror film you can actually enjoy watching.  It’s a gleefully dark kind of thing that rarely sees the light of day.

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