So many ways to take a life.
Trick 'r Treat is an anthology horror movie that was Screwed by the Studio. It was produced by Bryan Singer and directed by Michael Dougherty, and developed from Dougherty's 1996 animated short, Season's Greetings. The conceptual designer was Breehn Burns, co-creator of Dr. Tran. Trick 'r Treat was originally slated for a theatrical release in 2007, but was held up until a DVD release in 2009.
Set over a single Halloween night (although there is a flashback set on a Halloween thirty years prior), Trick 'r Treat is less interested in plot than it is in the holiday itself: the fears, emotions, atmosphere, and the traditions that have coalesced into what people imagine Halloween is about.
Trick 'r Treat has several subplots, loosely connected, that are the focus of this anthology:
- "Opening": A young couple is divided by his (Tahmoh Penikett) love and her (Leslie Bibb) hatred of Halloween.
- "The Principal": A school principal (Dylan Baker) carries out a double life as a Serial Killer.
- "Surprise Party": A group of college girls go to a Halloween party, where the sweet and virginal one (Anna Paquin), dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, is hoping to finally meet the man of her dreams...
- "The School Bus Massacre Revisited": A group of kids, inspired by the town legend of the "Halloween Schoolbus Massacre", play a prank that goes horribly wrong...
- "Meet Sam": An elderly curmudgeon (Brian Cox) with a Dark and Troubled Past attempts to get through the night without acknowledging that it is Halloween.
All these stories frequently overlap and share characters, particularly a mysterious trick 'r treater named Sam (pictured).
Not to be mistaken for the similarly named 1986 film Trick or Treat.
A sequel has been in development since October 2013, and a comic book with four prequel stories called Days of the Dead was released in October 2015.
This movie provides examples of the following:
- Adaptation Expansion: This live-action film is loosely based on a four-minute animated short by having more characters and stories involved than just Sam.
- Adults Dressed as Children: The guy Danielle has lined up to be Laurie's 'first' is an overweight guy dressed as a giant baby.
- Alpha Bitch: Macy and Danielle, though Danielle does genuinely care about her sister Laurie.
- Always a Bigger Fish: The vampire, revealed to be a mundane Serial Killer, is nothing more than a whimpering victim before a pack of werewolves.
- Anachronic Order: The opening scene is, chronologically, the very last event in the film. After this scene, it tells three stories that are more or less set simultaneously, before backing up to the beginning with another story, set during a time skip. It ends just before the opening scene.
- Angry Guard Dog: Mr. Kreeg's pit bull, Spite.
- Anthology: The film shows several different stories taking place on the same night.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Sam is heavily implied to be the physical embodiment of Halloween.
- Asshole Victim:
- Almost everyone who gets killed in this film was asking for their death besides Emma, who wasn't an asshole—she just didn't like Halloween. Charlie is probably the most standard example, though, since he was smashing pumpkins and stealing candy before he got killed by Principal Wilkins..
- Schrader is a borderline example; he did play a mean-spirited prank on Rhonda, but he was clearly sorry for it. The movie does not forgive him.
- Badass Normal: Mr. Kreeg.
- Bait-and-Switch: Many. Best used for a humorous effect in the opening when a woman sees a masked man dressed like Michael Myers across the street just standing there watching, and it turns out just to be a guy waiting for his ride.
- Bait the Dog: Wilkins seems like a nice enough guy at first, authoritative and worldly. He's sure to educate this chubby imbecile on proper Halloween etiquette, and not poison him to death and carve a pumpkin out of his severed head...
- Bedsheet Ghost: Sam wears a white bedsheet over his head to scare and kill Emma before he slits her throat and dismembers her.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Remember to always be nice to your friends or else they'll leave you to die.
- Big Bad Ensemble: There are several antagonists in the film. Sam, the spirit of Halloween enforcing its rules. Mr. Kreeg, a Halloween-hating cranky old man who is responsible for the deaths of a number of children. And Steven Wilkins, a Serial Killer who was terrorizing trick-or-treaters throughout the film.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Macy. She pretends to befriend Rhonda, only to play a cruel prank on her. Although there are more literal examples elsewhere...
- Black Comedy: The film definitely has a dark sense of humor. A good example would be the scenes of Stephen trying to bury the bodies of his victims, which are paced like some kind of wacky sitcom shenanigans.
- Blind Without 'Em: Rhonda can't see well without her glasses.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: Sam enforces the rules of Halloween, passively observing those who obey them and targeting those who don't. Kreeg is spared for accidentally complying to the same rule he broke.
- Bolivian Army Ending: Macy, Schrader and Chip aren't actually seen or explicitly heard being killed after being surrounded by zombies at the bottom of the quarry, and might have been able to somehow escape from or placate the zombies (especially if they were only after Macy. That being said, there odds for this aren't that good, especially considering the later presence of the zombies at Mr. Kreeg's house
- Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Sara, one of the four trick-or-treaters, has braces that look ridiculous.
- Brown Bag Mask: One of the kids killed in the 'Schoolbus Massacre' is wearing an incredibly creepy paper bag mask. Thirty years at the bottom of the pond does nothing to diminish its creepiness.
- Bury Your Disabled: The troubled children were drowned on the school bus. Rhonda, who is implicitly somewhere on the autism spectrum (not considered a disability, but as the film shows, autism is often stigmatized with ableist language nonetheless), survives, though.
- Call-Forward: When the clock rewinds to Mr. Kreeg's misadventure, one of the trick-or-treaters is wearing the same costume as the boy Wilkins beats to death with a shovel near the start of the movie.
- Casting Gag: Tahmoh Penikett's wife is wearing a silver robot costume.
- Cheated Death, Died Anyway: Kreeg manages to survive the battle to death by pure luck, is then shown redeemed by giving children candy and having halloween decoration up. Get's to catch some breath after that stressful encounter, followed by getting murdered by the zombie children he killed some years back.
- Cheerful Child: Principal Wilkins' son is very happy. "Let's carve a scaaaary pumpkin this time, Daddy!"
- Chekhov's Gun: The candy bar Mr. Keeg takes a single bite out of and tosses away. It later stops Sam from stabbing him and becomes an accidental offering to Sam.
- Children Are Innocent: Only a handful of the children in this film avert the trope of children being devoid of malice and spite.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: There are two comic book tie-ins to this film.
- A four-issue miniseries by WildStorm that was originally planned to be released weekly in October 2007 to coincide with the film's original theatrical release before being released as a graphic novel in 2009.
- Trick 'r Treat: Days of the Dead, a graphic novel published by Legendary Comics that tells new stories.
- Covers Always Lie: Inverted with the Blu-ray release as it clearly shows Sam's true face.
- Creepy Child:
- Sam (who isn't really a child) and the school bus kids.
- Billy Wilkins is a surprising example, given how he has no problem with helping his father make a jack-o-lantern from the severed head of a kid his dad killed.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Wilkins is a pretty clever serial killer but he is no match for a pack of werewolves.
- Deadly Prank: Macy and her friends pretend to be the undead schoolbus kids to scare Rhonda, who panics and cracks her head against a rock. The trope is subverted when it turns out that Rhonda is still alive, and subsequently inverted, when the real school bus kids show up and kill the pranksters.
- Dead Star Walking: Leslie Bibb dies very early on in the film.
- Death by Sex: Not literally, but the girl killed by the "vampire" (who's actually Principal Wilkins) is mortally wounded during their make-out session.
- Death of a Child: The film has several blatant instances of children getting killed. There's a lot of speculation that it was the studio's squeamishness over this that lead to the movie's underhyped, direct-to-DVD release.
- Decapitation Presentation: Sam cuts Emma's head off, sticks a lollipop in her mouth, and makes it into a Halloween decoration for her husband to find.
- Deliberately Cute Child: Billy Wilkins is absolutely adorable.
- Determinator: Sam is a supernatural example; a relentless force of nature who will not stop coming at you for the crime of disrespecting Halloween until either you've appeased him or he's killed you. Kreeg is a mundane example; a cantankerous old grouch with a bad attitude, a legally-owned shotgun, and enough steel in his balls to fight tooth and nail against the first thing.
- Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Once Sam's true nature is revealed, every time in which a character interacts peacefully with him comes across as this.
- Dies Wide Open: The victim of the vampire (who's actually Steve Wilkins) dies with her eyes open.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Those who break the rules of Halloween get horribly killed by Sam. On the flip side, following the rules even by mistake will get you spared.
- Edible Bludgeon: Sam attempts to stab Mr. Kreeg with a sharpened lollypop. He later (or, from our perspective, earlier, due to the Anachronic Order) uses it to murder Emma.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
- The werewolves appear to genuinely care about each other and tend to stick together. Notably, they're all genuinely concerned for Laurie when they find out Wilkins tried to attack her.
- Surprisingly, Wilkins' threatening comments towards his son were just talk and the two manage to qualify as evil people who care about each other.
- Evil Teacher: Steven Wilkins. School principal, serial killer, and wanna-be vampire.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The events unfold over the course of several hours on Halloween night. There's a brief flashback to a Halloween thirty years prior, as well.
- Fan Disservice: Laurie's friends disrobe before... removing their skin and sprouting hair.
- Final Girl: Laurie has many aspects of this, being named, as she is, after the Final Girl in Halloween (1978). She's even got the Little Red Riding Hood costume, which is, of course, associated with virginity. In the end, however, she and all her friends survive. And they were never really in any danger at all. She and her friends also kill the Serial Killer terrorizing the town.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Sam isn't really the kind of name that invokes terror, yet he's really a pumpkin-headed monster representing Halloween who will kill whoever breaks the holiday's rules. It's implied that his name might be short for "Samhain", an ancient Celtic harvest festival, on which our modern Halloween is based... though as the movie itself acknowledges, it's actually pronounced more like "Saw-wen".
- Foreshadowing: Go back and listen to the conversation of Laurie, Danielle, Maria, and Janet as they're trying on their costumes for the first time, and now with the knowledge that they're werewolves and their conversation takes on whole new meaning.Laurie: I don't know why we drove out here when there are perfectly good guys in the city.
Janet: Fresh meat.
Maria: It's what we do every Halloween, Laurie.
Laurie: Whatever happened to Trick or Treating?
Janet: Last year we were in Tampa.
Maria: And we went as sexy nurses.
Danielle: No, Janet, Tampa was two years ago, I remember because you puked doing a guy in his pickup truck.
Janet: I ate some bad Mexican, and it was a jeep.
Danielle: Last year was San Diego. We dressed as sailors and ended up with sailors.
Janet: Yeah, and Maria's sailor was a girl.
Maria: So what, she had a nice ass! It all tastes the same to me anyway...
Danielle: Open the door, or we'll huff, and we'll puff...
- Also, when Laurie refuses to come out of the dressing room because she's embarrassed of her costume.
Janet: She's a big girl. She can take care of herself.
- Another example is this exchange between Janet and Danielle while they're at their party and wait for Laurie, who hasn't shown up yet:
Danielle: I wish that were true. Mom always said she was the runt of the litter.
- And what costume is Laurie wearing? Little Red Riding Hood.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause at the exact end of the title montage, you'll see Sam's real face.
- Fur Against Fang: Sort of. The "vampire" who gets killed by the werewolves was just Principal Wilkins wearing false fangs.
- Ghost Butler: One of them opens and shuts a door for Sam. Or maybe he's just telekinetic.
- Ghostly Goals: The schoolbus kids Kreeg killed want to avenge their own deaths.
- Girlfriend in Canada: In a deleted scene, Laurie claims she is not a virgin; citing an incident with Dave, an attorney at the law firm in Toronto where she interned. The other girls don't believe it for a moment. Of course, 'virgin' has a different meaning in this context.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Kreeg attempts to kill Sam with a shattered booze bottle.
- Hair-Raising Hare: During the flashback of the Halloween School Bus Massacre, one of the children evokes this effect by wearing a creepy bunny mask. And is still wearing it 30 years later, rotted and blackened, when they come out of the lake with the other children to get revenge on the bus driver.
- Halloween Episode: Of course, this is a horror film taking place on Halloween.
- Hell Hound: Invoked by Kreeg, who dresses his rather petite dog, Spite, in black with glowing eyespots and sics him on trick-or-treaters.
- Helping Hands: Sam's hand continues to try to kill Mr. Kreeg after Kreeg has severed it from Sam's body.
- There's a trick 'r treater dressed as Michael Myers from the Halloween movies. Also, the character set up as an obvious Final Girl, as noted above, is named Laurie.
- Also, a colourized version of the original House on Haunted Hill (1959) is playing on TV in one scene, along with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.
- Naming a Serial Killer "Steven" may also be an Alice Cooper reference.
- Mr. Kreeg says "You gotta be fuckin' kidding," while Sam's severed hand skitters across the floor, much the same way as Palmer said the exact line in The Thing (1982) while Norris' head ran around the lab on spider legs.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The events take place over Halloween, naturally.
- Horror Hates a Rulebreaker: Samhain's mere presence tends to give rise to a lot of supernatural events wherever he goes, giving him a wide variety of ways to kill people who break from Halloween tradition. But as long as people give out candy, stay in costume, don't blow out the jack-o lanterns, and otherwise adhere to the Halloween "rules" until midnight, he'll leave them be. However, he doesn't take kindly to anyone murdering trick or treaters (more specifically, kids), and will go out of his way to kill the culprit, even if they do adhere to the rules.
- Idiot Savant: Rhonda is stated as such by one of the characters, pointing out she knows a lot about the history of Halloween, but not much about anything else.
- Improbable Weapon User: Sam's weapon of choice is a sharpened lollipop
- Info Dump: Rhonda at one point delivers a lot of exposition on the origins of Halloween/Samhain.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Those guys the girls are picking up for the party? Yeah, about that...
- Ironic Echo:
- "Screw you." Mr. Kreeg says it to Principal Wilkins when he wishes him a Happy Halloween. Principal Wilkins later says the same phrase to Kreeg when he's begging for help.
- As well as "My my, what big eyes you have." First spoken by Principal Wilkins toward Laurie, then by Laurie toward Wilkins as she prepares to kill and eat him.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: ...give me something good to eat...
- Jerkass: Mr. Kreeg has his dog scare away trick-or-treaters so he can steal their candy. And that's not even getting into how he killed a busload of schoolchildren.
- Karma Houdini: Sam and the werewolves, assuming their other victims weren't assholes.
- Kids Are Cruel: Macy and her friends aren't very nice. Charlie also fits, being a pumpkin-smashing vandal who steals candy.
- Kiss of the Vampire: The victim of the "vampire" is so pleasured that she doesn't even realize it's happening until she notices her own blood dripping down her arms.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The child-killing principal is devoured by werewolves.
- Literal Man Eater: The werewolves, although Maria made an exception once and ate a lady.
- Malevolent Masked Men: Just about everyone wears a mask at some point for obvious reasons, but particular examples include Sam, the vampire, and the schoolbus kids.
- Meaningful Background Event: Half the movie has significant things happening in the background to hint how most stories are happening simultaneously.
- Ceiling Cling: Sam approaches Mr. Kreeg across the ceiling.
- Wilkins is unknowingly spectator to Kreeg's fight.
- The werewolf girls can be seen as Wilkins has a little make-out session.
- Rhonda is walking in the background with her cart a few times.
- Sam can occasionally be seen walking somewhere in the background.
- The three clown teens can be seen on the regular, being the best display to figure out the order of events based on where they are when.
- The dead children can be seen at the very beginning, going to/coming from Kreeg.
- Henry and Emma pop up multiple times in the scenes in the town centre. Most notably, when the vampire's first victim begs them for help, and they think she's drunk.
- Meaningful Name:
- Sam is strongly implied to be short for Samhain, the Celtic god of death and the harvest. Samhain is actually pronounced something akin to 'sah-win', but given that Rhonda uses the proper pronunciation, they most likely took Artistic License with the nickname.
- Kreeg is an obvious homonym for "Krieg", the German word for war or conflict. It's of course Mr. Kreeg that battles with Sam.
- And his dog is named Spite.
- Mugging the Monster: Principal Wilkins trying to kill Laurie, a werewolf.
- Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Either Rhonda, the autistic girl, is completely oblivious to the supernatural, or she's so aware of it that she takes it for granted. There does, however, seem to be more evidence for the latter (i.e. she knows that jack o'lanterns can protect you if they remain lit, though this could just be her knowledge of traditions and an attempt to be reassuring to the terrified Chip).
- Noodle Incident: On one of the werewolf pack's previous hunts, a chosen victim evidently turned out to be a woman. And got devoured anyway.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: Sam is too formidable to kill.
- Obvious Stunt Double: Sam goes from an actual child in a costume to a very obvious adult stunt double when brawling with Mr. Kreeg. They use quick cuts to disguise this as much as they can, but it's pretty obvious if you look for it.
- Offing the Offspring:
- Subverted. For a while, it really looks like Steven is going to knife his son Billy to death. It turns out he was probably never planning to; he was just really excited about carving that "jack o' lantern"...
- Played straight in the story of the Halloween School Bus Massacre, where the parents of eight mentally disabled children hire the bus driver to drown them in the lake.
- Once Is Not Enough: Averted; Kreeg takes no chances against Sam. He gets back up anyway, but you have to to give Kreeg that much credit, at least.
- Once More, with Clarity!: The opening sequence is shown again at the end of the movie, and the scenes now make a lot more sense.
- During Steven's story he briefly sees Mr. Kreeg pounding on his window trying to get his attention, only to mutter "Screw you" and ignore him. In Mr. Kreeg's story we learn why he was doing so.
- Our Vampires Are Different: They're not real vampires, for one thing...
- Our Werewolves Are Different: They're all female, for one, and transform by the rarely-seen, but definitely folkloric, method of tearing off their human skin.
- Pocket Protector: When Sam tries to stab Mr. Kreeg with a sharpened lollipop, the lollipop impales a candy bar that had fallen on his chest. Sam takes this as an offering and leaves Kreeg alive.
- Police Are Useless: When Mr. Kreeg calls the police, he is put on hold long enough for Sam to cut the line. No one is ever sent out to check on the cause of the call.
- Pulling Themselves Together: Sam, after Kreeg dismembers him with buckshot, reattaches his severed hand.
- Pumpkin Person: Sam has a pumpkin-like head under his mask. Notably, the face also shares some features with a skull.
- Razor Apples: While there's no literal example, Steven uses poison ("Always check your candy!"), and Sam uses a razor blade inside a chocolate bar as a weapon. If you look closely, you'll notice he was given that same chocolate bar by Steven, so it's quite possible that Steven put the blade there - that or Sam just thought holding his knife inside a chocolate bar fit his aesthetic better. Also, as a nod to this trope, when Mr Kreeg falls down the stairs, they're littered with hypodermic needles, straight pins, shards of glass, razor blades and candy.
- Recurring Extra: The three kids dressed as clowns, who can be very helpful in establishing the film's Anachronic Order. Sam starts out as one of these, too, with a few seemingly-innocuous appearances throughout the film.
- Redemption Equals Death: After Mr. Kreeg appeases Sam by giving him a chocolate bar, he is seen giving out candy to other trick 'r treaters and basically doing Halloween right. However, at the end of the night, the schoolbus kids still come for him, since the final scene reveals he was the school bus driver who killed them.
- Rewatch Bonus: On a rewatch, those who pay attention to the dialogue of Laurie's sister and friends will notice that it is filled with foreshadowing that they are all werewolves.
- On a rewatch, it feels almost too obvious that Mr. Kreeg was the murderous bus driver, though the first time you watch it, the significance of his wheezing cough and distinctive ring are very easy to miss.
- Room Full of Crazy: Sam plasters Mr. Kreeg's room with the lyrics of the Ironic Nursery Tune in absolutely record time, and festoons his lawn with elaborate jack-o'-lanterns.
- Sackhead Slasher: Sam wears a burlap sack with buttons sewn on for eyes and a stitched-on mouth as a trick-or-treater mask.
- The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: How the werewolf girls lead unsuspecting men to their feast. Said men are the main course.
- Scary Scarecrows: Sam's mask, as well as the ornaments on Henry and Emma's lawn.
- The Scourge of God: Well, a god... Sam is killing unpleasant people on Halloween because he's the personification of the holiday.
- Serial Killer: Steven frequently kills people and tries to cover it up.
- Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Laurie is teased by her friends and sister for being a virgin at 22 and wanting her first time to be special. It turns out that they're not referring to sex at all, but the killing and eating of men.
- Sexy Whatever Outfit: All of Laurie's friends go out for Halloween dressed in sexy fairytale-inspired costumes. They make fun of Laurie for her comparatively conservative Little Red Riding Hood costume.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Kreeg survives his near-fatal encounter with Sam and the harrowing experience inspires him to reverse his disrespectful attitude towards Halloween, giving generously to trick-or-treaters without complaint. Unfortunately, that's as far as he goes, what with being brutally murdered by the undead kids just before the credits.
- Shovel Strike: When Wilkins realises the body he is burying is Not Quite Dead, he pounds it several times with his shovel to finish the job. All the while, he is trying not to attract Mr. Kreeg's attention.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Wilkins looks extremely normal throughout the film.
- Spiritual Successor: Krampus, which is also written and directed by Dougherty.
- Stab the Salad: A rare example where the "innocent" reveal isn't really much better than the initial assumption.
- Trapped in a Sinking Car: The Halloween School Bus Massacre had mentally disabled children drown in a bus.
- Undead Child: The school bus kids that drowned come back as zombies to enact their revenge on Mr. Kreeg.
- The Voiceless: Sam never speaks onscreen, although he makes a sort of hissing noise toward the end, and giggles a little.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Some poisoned candy provokes a massive display of Charlie vomiting onscreen.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Mr. Kreeg's dog Spite isn't seen again after being attacked by Sam.
- Whispering Ghosts: Starts up the moment Macy extinguishes the last nearby jack-o-lantern.
- Would Hurt a Child: Resident Serial Killer Steven Wilkins seems to specialize in killing children. This is actually one of the few horror movies where young children are shown being killed.