Halloween Week Reviews # 5 – TRICK R TREAT & OFFSPRING
Halloween Review Week concludes, on Halloween fittingly enough, with reviews of two recent DVDs.
TRICK R TREAT
This movie was made in 2007, but was never released theatrically, and just came out on DVD two years later. In the meantime, the buzz increased the longer it was unavailable. There were all kinds of theories why it wasn’t being released. But one constant rumor was that this was a lost gem.
Now that it’s finally on DVD, I decided to check it out. And while I thought TRICK R TREAT was entertaining, I did not find it be any kind of lost masterpiece. There are some really good moments, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s just so-so, too.
Probably the best aspect of the movie is the acting talent involved. Some of the actors here include Dylan Baker (from Todd Solondz’s HAPPINESS, and lots of other stuff), Anna Paquin (TRUE BLOOD) and the always good Brian Cox (who was in the Jack Ketchum adaptation, RED).
The opening credits unfold as a series of comic book pages, and in this way it reminded me a lot of the classic George Romero/Stephen King movie CREEPSHOW, which I’m a big fan of. We’re shown the cover of a comic book called TRICK R TREAT, and then we dive into a series of horror tales in an anthology format.
The stories include: a fat, obnoxious kid (Brett Kelly, also The Kid in BAD SANTA) who goes around smashing jack o lanterns and stealing candy, but when he gorges himself on a bowl of candy left on the porch of the school principal (Baker), he gets his comeuppance. Another story involves a school bus full of disturbed children (they’re all chained to their seats) that went over a cliff 30 years ago. When a group of kids on Halloween in the present day play a prank on an odd girl, using the school bus story as a jumping off point, they get more than they bargained for at the edge of a pond in a rock quarry. Yet another story involves a repressed girl (Anna Paquin) who is wanders away from her friends during a Halloween party and is stalked by a killer vampire. Like the other stories, this one also has a twist ending (although the secret of who the masked vampire is is not only a disappointment – it doesn’t really make any sense!).
The final story revolves around Brian Cox as a grumpy old man who hates kids and who is attacked by a strange, child-sized monster who wears a burlap sack over his head.
The stories are told in a way where characters and scenes overlap (kind of like what Tarantino did with PULP FICTION), so that all of them are happening on the same night. Another unifying aspect is the sack-headed dwarf, who appears in some of the other stories.
Some of the stories are better than others. The ones with Dylan Baker and Anna Paquin seemed pretty cliché to me, and you can see their “twists” coming a mile away. The story concerning the ghosts of the kids who died on the school bus is better, but still nothing incredible (it reminded me of a kids’ version of one of the stories in CREEPSHOW).
Strangely, it’s the Brian Cox segment which I found the most enjoyable. I say strangely, because it’s probably the simplest premise. A man vs. a little monster that is trying to kill him. But somehow it works (probably because Cox is always so good in these things), and it had a level of energy I wish the movie had maintained throughout. If the whole movie was as good as this segment, I would have loved it.
Director Michael Dougherty does a decent job, and the movie looks great. It’s just that the script doesn’t isn’t as strong as it could have been throughout. Not a must-own classic, but certainly worth a rental.
The fourth movie to be made from a book by horror writer Jack Ketchum, OFFSPRING is the first of the bunch to have a screenplay written by Mr. Ketchum himself. And like the other adaptations, it’s a solid little horror movie. Ketchum has had a great track record when it comes to his work coming to the screen, and the sad part is that not one of these movies has had a decent theatrical release yet. I had hoped OFFSPRING might show up in theaters, but after some festival showings it went right to DVD.
As a book, OFFSPRING is the sequel to Ketchum’s first novel – the classic OFF-SEASON – about feral cannibals on the prowl in the woods of Maine. A feral girl who survived at the end of OFF-SEASON went on to create a new family of cannibals in OFFSPRING. Surprisingly, even though an OFF-SEASON movie has yet to be made, and the sequel got the film treatment first, it works just fine. Newspaper accounts tell us enough about the previous attack, so that we can follow what’s happening here.
The acting is good all around. From the family who is victimized (along with some friends visiting), to the kids playing the “monsters.” I found this to be a fast-paced, tight film, that grabs you and keeps you glued to the screen throughout its 90 minute running time. Despite the obvious low budget (the most recognizable face here is probably character actor Art Hindle as George Peters), director Andrew van den Houten does the story justice. Even Ketchum himself has a cameo in this one (as he has in all of his films so far), as a forensics guy early on.
Over all, I think I liked this one better than TRICK R TREAT (although the Brian Cox vs. the dwarf with a bag on his head is still killer), and but I didn’t think it was as strong as films like RED (starring Brian Cox) or THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, previous Ketchum adaptations that just seemed more powerful – probably because the storylines and acting talents involved were just more intense.
But OFFSPRING is a decent horror film, and worth checking out.