Spoiler: people die in horrific ways. Try not to feel like you're a bad person for laughing.

Completed in 2007 but unable to find release until 2009, Trick 'r Treat has since become a critical and seasonal cult hit, capturing the essential October 31 like few films in history.

Several interwoven tales of terror unfold on Halloween night in a small community with a rate of mysterious deaths that should make property there quite affordable. Monsters and victims alike range from children to teens to young adults to old folks. The film draws on old Horror comics, campfire stories, and faerie tales without resorting to slavish imitation, and presents the results with a wicked wink.

It's Halloween night. Dark things are about.

Dylan Baker gives an hysterical performance as a murderous elementary school principal, setting the tone for much of the movie. I have to admire a man who can get paid for having this much fun. Of course, we know there will be payback for his character. It happens in one of the other stories. The interconnections are such that, while most tales function on their own, they all form part of a larger Halloween night.

"The School Bus Massacre Revisited" stands as the strongest of the tales, and features stunning cinematography and impressive performances from young actors. Samm Todd beguiles as bullied child savant Rhonda. Like the other stories, it doesn't end with its apparent conclusion. Some surviving characters reappear later.

"Surprise Party" actually surprised me, the first time through. In rewatchings, I've enjoyed the multiple, darkly hilarious clues regarding just where this particular story is going.

Indeed, writer/director Michael Dougherty made this film for repeated viewings. Pay careful attention, for example, to the young women's dialogue in the changeroom near the start of the film.1. It will return in ways you might not be expecting.

You will have to view this film in its intended spirit. Seasonal spooks exact appalling revenge and, as in a haunted house, we're invited to gasp, shriek, and laugh aloud. And, while the gore falls far short of many contemporary horror movies, it should be clear the movie is not for all tastes. But for fans of the genre? When it finally saw release, it won the Audience Choice Award at Los Angeles Screamfest and the Silver Audience Award at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Rue Morgue declared it the best feature film of the year.

Serving equal doses of the horrific and the ridiculous, Trick 'r Treat will entertain anyone who understands they're not watching a horror movie, but a Halloween movie. It may be the definitive seasonal feature for those over the age of 18.2

Dylan Baker as Principal Steven Wilkins
Anna Paquin as Laurie Rutherford
Rochelle Aytes as Maria
Brian Cox as Mr. Kreeg
Lauren Lee Smith as Danielle Rutherford
Britt McKillip as Macy Rutherford
Isabelle Deluce as Sara Perry
Samm Todd as Rhonda Curran
Jean-Luc Bilodeau as Sam "Schrader" Hader
Alberto Ghisi as Chip Winslow
Moneca Delain as Janet
Tahmoh Penikett as Henry
Brett Kelly as Charlie
Leslie Bibb as Emma
Connor Levins as Billy Wilkins
Gerald Paetz as the Bus Driver
James Willson as Alex
Patrick Gilmore as Bud the Cameraman
C. Ernst Harth as Giant Baby
Keanen Schnoor as Matthew
Christine Willes as Mrs. Henderson
Richard Harmon as Vampire Kid
Laura Mennell as Allie
Chloe Smeltzer as Little Pig #1
Kiah Mortison as Little Pig #2
Livia Mortison as Little Pig #3
Quinn Lord as Sam3

1. With reference to another of the film's many Easter Eggs, Dougherty confirms that Brian Cox was deliberately made up to look like a bedraggled John Carpenter.

2. While the brief nudity in one sequence makes perfect sense, the shot of a pornographic tape in the film's prologue feels gratuitous, like it's only there to assure us the film carries an R-rated. YMMV. And much of the film, scare/gore factor notwithstanding, would be fine for 14+.

3. The young actor had doubles, including Suzi Stingl, a small adult gymnast who handled much of the fight scene.

Libera te Tutemet ex Inferis: The 2023 Halloween Horrorquest