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13 Things I Learned Watching Trick 'r Treat with Director Commentary

 
 
Trick 'r Treat teaser poster.


I've been a fan of Mike Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat since seeing an advance screening of the shelved Warner Bros. film way back in 2007.  I love this movie.  It's a love letter to Halloween.  A gorgeous homage to things that go bump in the night.  It's the type of film whose viewing transcends generations and becomes a tradition.

If you like anthology films such as Creephsow, Creepshow II, Twilight Zone The Movie, Cats Eye, and series such as Tales from the Darkside and Tales from the Crypt... this is your movie.
It's smart enough to throw winks at those who enjoy horror films from the 70s-2000s, but completely accessible as to make new fans every year.  Like many classic horror films such as An American Werewolf in London, Scream and Drag Me to Hell, it takes the viewer on a ride that switches effortlessly between humor and horror.

Best of all it centers around the Halloween season, traditions, and imagery and should be watched yearly with It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, John Carpenter's Halloween and Garfield's Halloween Adventure, every year.  An instant classic... and I don't use those words often.  

Needless to say, I watch it every year.  

But these 15 years later I've seen Trick 'r Treat A LOT.  And sometimes it's good to mix up how you watch your favorites.  So this year, when I realized that I had somehow never watched the film with commentary, I decided to rectify that as it's the perfect little twist of pumpkin spice to my annual viewing.

The commentary was great and director Mike Dougherty is not only proud of his film, but also clearly shows his love of the Halloween season with lots of name drops from everything from Peanuts and the Great Pumpkin to horror movies as varied as the The Changeling, Friday the 13th (remake), and Pet Sematary.  

Below are a bunch of things I found really interesting from the commentary.  I highly recommend watching it yourself, but enjoy these 13 (actually 14) nuggets of interest.  I've already done a lot of the legwork of finding visual references and linking out to them, when appropriate. 

  • 00:52 - The Halloween safety video that appears at the top of the film was originally only in the trailer.  Cut together from vintage footage, director Mike Dougherty liked it so much that he incorporated it into the film.  Personally I'm so glad he did.  I always consider Trick 'r Treat to be the perfect amalgamation of everything I love about the holiday, and including a safety video that I hadn't previously watched numerous times on YouTube is a gift. 
  • 04:39 - The special effects blood was kept heated so it would steam when applied on camera in the cold November nights of Vancouver. 
  • 09:11 - The large Halloween parade scene was inspired by the New York City Halloween Parade, and the production team found and hired a group of local Vancouver street performers called the "Parade of Lost Souls" [technically they're called the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret] to walk on stilts and do their thing.  
  • 22:46 - There's a House on Haunted Hill sound-up in the background. [Mike Dougherty originally said it was House of Wax, but near the end of the commentary he corrected himself.]  I love it when horror movies use the sound of other horror movies as soundscapes (John Carpenter's Halloween did it fabulously).  It's meta-creepy.
  • 37:58 - The director revealed a theme to the film:  Trick 'r Treat represents Halloween through life.  The story with Dylan Baker and his son represents childhood:  carving a jack o' lantern with one's father.  The story with the kids collecting jack o' lanterns to take to the quarry represents the age when you're old enough to go out with your friends without parents-- causing mischief and playing pranks.  The story of the women going to a party in the woods represents Halloween in one's 20s-- wearing fantasy costumes and hooking up.  And the Mr. Kreeg story represents Halloween in one's twilight years. 
  • 39:38 - Barely audible in the background is a version of "Cry Little Sister" (originally featured in The Lost Boys). 
  • 44:23 - The director, when previously working in animation at Nickelodeon, would hide under coworker's desks, let the people get comfortable, and then scream at the top of his lungs, scaring them.  In his words "... there's nothing like making someone scream."
  • 54:45 - Though the track playing during the werewolf scene is Marilyn Manson's version of "Sweet Dreams," on set the track that was playing, and everyone was dancing to, was Peggy Lee's "Fever."  
  • 58:46 - Actor Brian Cox wanted Mr. Kreeg to look like John Carpenter, so that's where Kreeg's distinct look came from.
  • 59:40 - The director revealed that essentially Mr. Kreeg's story is basically Scrooge on Halloween.  A Halloween Christmas Carol
  • 1:03:15 - One of the inspirations for the Mr. Kreeg story is the Twilight Zone episode "The Invaders" which barely has any dialog.  
  • 1:12:15 - In discussing the origins of Sam, Dougherty mentioned a painting by Charles Addams called "Self-carve Pumpkin."  As if Sam had carved his own face to look like a jack o' lantern, pulling the burlap sack off a nearby scarecrow and entering the world.  You can buy an official poster reprint from the Addams estate HERE.  The painting also was the cover of the October 30, 1989 New Yorker Magazine. 

New Yorker Magazine cover Oct. 30, 1989 by Charles Addams.
So what about you?  
What's your seasonal favorite film that you watch every year?
And I challenge you:  how will you watch it differently THIS year?


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