Friday, 12 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Trick 'R Treat

Bookya! Yeah I know, the openings of the blogs are getting increasingly random as they go along, but either way, it's an excuse not only for bucking the usual trends but also serves the purpose brilliantly of covering up my extreme laziness. Whoops! Did not say that. Just forget that you read the last few sentences. Or maybe stop reading the blog. Go. Now. Stop! No wait don't! Anyway, the scrumptious meal on the plate tonight is Trick 'R Treat. Film criticism can be compared to food tasting, hence the metaphor. All critics are the same: it’s a purely universal thing, regardless of our given medium. Trick 'R Treat is a little-seen horror oddity which has slowly been developing a cult audience. The film was in fact first screened at Harry Knowles' film festival Butt-Numb-A-Thon in 2007, and has been making appearances at various horror film festivals since, including Fangoria's 2008 Screamfest and numerous others. Despite an October 2007 original release date, distribution problems with Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures have seen the film released in the UK direct-to-DVD in October 2009. Nevertheless, the debut feature of Michael Dougherty, screenwriter of X2 and Superman, has gained near universal acclaim amongst those critics who have seen the film, many of whom have ranked the film among the best horror films of the decade. In Trick 'R Treat, not surprisingly, the film is set on Halloween night, and the film follows four interconnected tales over the course of the nights happenings. Now, the film is a brisk, tight seventy-nine minutes, and as such the film structured in a manner where it can't really go wrong. Concept wise, it is very strong. Each of the tales are maniacal and macabre, reminiscent of the likes of The Twilight Zone or the more recent Masters Of Horror. This is a case of less is more nailed in the head. I could imagine that if this was a conventional "Hollywood" horror film, it would be stretched out for about another twenty-thirty minutes, and try to add more and more exposition that is completely unnecessary and ruins the mysteriousness and subtlety of the piece. If you look at the history of horror cinema, you will quite clearly see that most of them are less than 100 minutes. Halloween runs at 91 minutes, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre runs at an even shorter 84 minutes. Longer ones, such as The Exorcist or 28 Days Later are layered with themes such as human drama and social subtexts. Never should a horror film especially, much less any film be made to be overly long, so in this department Trick 'R Treat works excellently. As mentioned, because of this the tales work really well and are strung well into each other. Trick 'R Treat has so many things going against it as a film, for one being an unconventional and original horror film, but also an episodic film, more in due time. The cast is very good, clearly very aware of people’s expectations and horror film conventions. Brian Cox hams it up as your typically mysterious and grumpy old man, Anna Paquin plays a real perversion of your average heroine and in the film’s best turn Dylan Baker plays a really genuinely warped and funny character brilliantly in Principal Wilkins. Michael Dougherty must also be congratulated not just for his well-structured script, but his direction too is very good. It hints at an interesting prospect for horror cinema, with someone who clearly knows what he is doing, and is aware of the current climate of "horror" cinema. However, whilst certainly an enjoyable film, as a b-movie concept piece, it does have its limitations. As mentioned earlier, the film is an episodic film, and creating an episodic film with quite clearly original stories with only a few recurrent strands has its limitations. I think in terms of episodic structure and delivery, Pulp Fiction is perhaps the best examples of this. An ensemble cast performing to perfection and Tarantino at his maniacal best (though presently, I am still unsure whether I prefer this to his earlier film Reservoir Dogs). In Trick 'R Treat, rather unfortunately, it does often feel like a bunch of short films shoved together. An episodic film is hard to balance, an unfortunately it does teeter more to the bad side in terms of the episodic film concept. It is particularly in the transitions between sections that the film falters, for while it is a nippy film, it does not aptly set the scenes well. Once it gets into the tale, its fine, and the endings of each are smart, but the beginnings/transitions do not work well and seem like filler. It's not too long a film, it just seems like these establishments do not work well, and they really do deter at times from your enjoyment of the overall piece. Nevertheless, despite these obvious falterings, which in truth are more the fault of the genres/structured formats of episodic films and b-movies, Trick 'R Treat is an enjoyable little film that has enough good in it to give a suitable lesson to the big-boys of today’s horror cinema in how to make a good horror film with a cheaper budget.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Satisfied

No comments: