Ah, the horror anthology: a collection of scary tales that don't have to be related, just all about horror. These collections have been inspired by everything from comic books (Creepshow) to television shows (Twilight Zone: The Movie), and it makes sense that Halloween -- the holiday of scares -- would inspire the same sort of features. Trick 'r Treat, written and directed by Michael Dougherty, is not just a movie with Halloween stories, but interconnected Halloween stories.

The movie opens with Emma (Leslie Bibb) ready to take down the Halloween decorations early -- and the deadly consequences of that simple action. Then we have Steven (Dylan Baker), the unassuming school principal -- who's also a serial killer having to deal with countless distractions while getting rid of his latest victim. Laurie (Anna Paquin) is a teen dressed as Little Red Riding Hood who wants tonight to be her first time -- and "special" -- while her friends and sister are more experienced; and someone seems to be following Laurie. A couple of teens take Rhonda (Samm Todd), an idiot savant, to an abandoned quarry where a bus full of children drowned many years ago. And finally, cranky old Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) wants nothing to do with the holiday -- until a diminutive intruder shows up inside his house...

Trick 'r Treat isn't that much of a treat. For the most part this is standard horror material, both in form (gruesome killings, mutilated bodies) and message (folks who are mean come to untimely ends). The movie has the occasional nice touch -- lit pumpkins going out one by one in a thick fog, the small creature whose mask is a smiling sack -- but this is a pretty routine horror movie.

The main (only?) big innovation of Trick r' Treat is its non-linear interwoven stories. While all of the stories take place in the same town on the same night, the stories aren't told in chronological order. So a person who was murdered in one scene may bump into a character on the street in the next scene. While this is somewhat clever, it doesn't add any great meaning or irony to the scenes (unlike its similar use in Memento and Pulp Fiction); it just ties the stories together.
The only dvd extra is the short animated feature "Season's Greetings," Michael Dougherty's original tale that inspired one of the stories in Trick 'r Treat. The only commentary is for this short, not for the movie.

Halloween is a little over a month away, and in some ways Trick 'r Treat is perfect for the holiday: a few scares, a few monsters, a horror movie with a lot of costumes and killings. This is far from a great horror movie, but it's also a step up from a standard slasher or Saw movie.

Overall grade: C

Reviewed by James Lynch

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