Trick 'r Treat, directed by Michael Dougherty of Superman Returns fame, has a comic book feel but does a nice job of conveying the real things that can spook kids, making for a good Halloween thriller. Composed of four intertwined stories that unfold simultaneously, starting on the same block in Ohio, Trick 'r Treat initially bears some resemblance to John Carpenter's Halloween, in that it focuses on terrors experienced by teens and young, costumed children.
As the short tales become increasingly violent and complex, one begins to see that many culprits are responsible, and that a general haunting of all neighborhood jack-o'-lanterns is the root cause of some gory crimes. For example, in one segment, Emma (Leslie Bibb), against the wishes of her husband, Henry (Tahmoh Penikett), blows out a candle in her jack-o'-lantern and pays dearly as her night unfolds. Meanwhile, Laurie (Anna Paquin of True Blood), a young woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, goes to the woods to party with her sister and two girlfriends, attracting a stalker whose smile alone is creepy enough to startle a slumber party crowd. The two stories starring younger kids carry the film, however. In one, elementary-schooler Charlie (Brett Kelly) meets with the demented school principal, Steven (Dylan Baker), who assesses Charlie's love of stealing candy and thrashing pumpkins. At the same time, a witchy nerd named Rhonda (Samm Todd) is invited to join a young gang at an abandoned rock quarry and faces the mean gang leader, Macy (Britt McKillip), after a prank goes awry. "Earlier" or "Later" periodically flash onscreen in comic-book typeface, successfully directing the viewer through time and also relieving some tension that would've built through a single sustained story. In this, light comedy and some downright silliness shine through. All the kids are in great costumes, and the film, overall, has a festive goth look. By the end, one trusts that Trick 'r Treat is really targeting the younger age group that it highlights, yet it contains enough spook to make adults jumpy as well. --Trinie Dalton
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