Sunday 31 October 2021

Trick ’r Treat (2007)

Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty
Stars: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox

Index: Horror Movie Calendar.

And so to Halloween, the most horror holiday of the year, a horrorday if you will! I avoided Halloween partly because it’s too damn obvious a choice, but also because something on the cover of my DVD copy of Trick ’r Treat bugged me. It’s a quote from the Wizard Universe website, the forerunner of Wizard World, to state that this is “the best Halloween film of the last 30 years.” It’s obvious to everyone that they’re saying “since John Carpenter’s Halloween, which came out in 1978”, but I’d call this easily the best Halloween film, period, as it isn’t just a horror flick set on Halloween, as so many others are, it’s actually a distillation of the fundamental rules of Halloween into movie form. It didn’t get a wide release, only playing a handful of film festivals over the couple of years until it hit home video in 2009. It was critically acclaimed but there’s never any guarantee that the moviegoing public are going to see eye to eye with the critics and this has sadly remained an underground hit, although the size of the cult is thankfully growing.

It really is the epitome of the movie to throw on every year on the holiday in question. You can watch Halloween any day, but Trick ’r Treat gains magic when viewed on Halloween, late at night after the trick or treaters have gone home and you can slouch back in your comfiest chair with a beer or three. It’s an anthology film but an unusual one because, unlike most anthology films which just hurl out random, if perhaps themed, short films inside a framing story, these stories are interwoven. All four take place in roughly the same place at roughly the same time. The place is Warren Valley, OH and the time, of course, is Halloween night. There’s a fifth piece that does too, but it’s much shorter than the others and it serves as our framing story, mostly there to set us up for what’s to come. It features a couple returning home from the carnival atmosphere in town and, while Henry is a huge Halloween fan, Emma is not. As she starts taking down their Halloween decorations, she outright states, “I hate Halloween”. And that’s not good.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Mischief Night (2013)

Director: Richard Schenkman
Writer: Richard Schenkman, from a story by Jesse Baget and Eric D. Wilkinson
Stars: Noell Coet, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Charlie O’Connell, Erica Leerhsen, Stephanie Erb, Richard Riehle, Ian Bamberg, Adam C. Edwards and Ally Walker

Index: Horror Movie Calendar.

There are a few movies named for and set on the surprisingly old but unofficial holiday of Mischief Night, but I had to pick this one because it’s a Richard Schenkman film, his first since one of my very favourite modern science fiction features, 2007’s The Man from Earth. Yet I watched it, wrote a bunch of notes but not a review, came back to it three years later and realised that I’d forgotten the entire thing. Finally putting virtual pen to paper on an actual review, I wonder what it really does and why. It’s obviously a holiday horror, because the entire film takes place on two different 30th Octobers, with almost all of it being the mischief of Mischief Night. These mischiefmongers do more than hurl eggs though, so it becomes a home invasion movie, one that benefits from an additional trick up its sleeve but loses out on back story and motivation. But, and here’s the kicker, none of it really matters in the way that we expect it to matter. It all matters for a completely different reason that we’ve completely forgotten about by that point in the film.

We know that this particular mischiefmaker, whoever he is (and we never get a name, background or even connection), is serious about his mischiefmaking because of the intro sequence, which amounts to a full tenth of the entire movie. It’s routine until it isn’t, with Kim enjoying a romantic bathtub rendezvous with Will while her husband is away in Tokyo. There are red petals and candles everywhere and Will is gonna rip her to shreds, in the most romantic way, of course. But what’s that? Is it a noise? The microwave is messed with and there’s no dialtone. It’s just kids, suggests Kim, messing around on Mischief Night like she used to, but I’d be far more concerned knowing that these particular kids are inside my house and they’ve found and cued up a sextape I recorded with a partner other than my spouse. Really, there are two important things happening here. One is that there are zero naughty bits on display in a movie that starts with a couple getting it on in a bathtub. The other is Will asking, “What the hell is Mischief Night?”