31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN | TRICK ‘R TREAT

Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat is the definitive Halloween movie.

If you’ve seen it, and you probably have by now, then you know why. No other movie encompasses the spirit of Halloween more than Trick ‘r Treat does.

Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology that has five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween. There’s a woman who loathes the holiday and has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband and perhaps something else; There’s a high school principal with a secret life; a college virgin may have just met the guy to lose it to; a group of young teens who pull a mean prank; and a mean old man meets his match with a  supernatural trick-or-treater, Trick ‘r Treat mascot Sam.

Sam is short for Samhain, the festival of the Dead meaning “Summer’s End” and pronounced “saag-win” or “aaaa-ween.” It’s a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year. For many, Samhain also is the beginning of the spiritual new year.

Sam is the spiritual essence of Halloween. He’s cute, playful, a prankster, supernatural, and scary.

Trick ‘r Treat was set to release in 2007, but for some reason Warner Bros. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) decided to pull it from release with no rhyme or reason. It was two years later before it was released straight to video without much of a marketing push. Despite the overwhelming onslaught of straight to video releases in the horror genre, Trick ‘r Treat still managed to gain a cult following. Why? Because it’s just that good. This list is about our favorite things to watch during Halloween, and ultimately what feels most like the holiday. Sure, there’s more than a few on the list that aren’t directly Halloween related, but still are films that are a must watch this time of the year (The Exorcist, The Shining).

But Trick ‘r Treat is something special in that it completely loves Halloween. From every corner of the frame it is soaked in the lore and the visual appreciation for All Hallows’ Eve.

This is evident in the the trailer embedded below.

 

In the years since its release, Trick ‘r Treat continues to gain a following as being the Halloween movie to watch. AtmosFEARfx just released a Trick ‘r Treat video for their interactive Halloween decorations collection. FEARnet even ran a 24 hour marathon just like the seminal Christmas classic, A Christmas Story has. Here’s an ad for that (I love that Sam has a Dead Man’s Bones lunchbox tin).

 

Creator, Michael Dougherty created Sam years ago in his 1996 animated short Season’s Greetings. Just like the movie, this is also a Halloween gem that deserves a viewing.

We can’t really say much more than that. Trick ‘r Treat is the best Halloween movie. Period.

Michael Dougherty knows his craft and thankfully is working more and more. Krampus had a major studio release and is one of the best Christmas horror movies ever too. Krampus was the best decorated house at this years Halloween Horror Nights if you were wondering.  And just last week it was announced that he would take on the directing duties of Godzilla 2 that has me genuinely excited (despite the first having scale and looking great it was kind of a bore). Shit… this is probably going to delay Trick ‘r Treat 2 though. Choices!

We hope you’ve had an amazing and frightful Halloween season. Thank you for sharing it in some part with us here at Inside Pop Culture. Check out our other must-see picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.

 

Featured Artist | Sooki Martinsen

Sooki is so cool. Once again, the work in our featured image is IPC’s own, Sooki Martinsen. If you missed her work on yesterdays entry, Halloween then go check that out. To see more of her work go to www.sookimartinsen.com. Here is Sooki’s take on Sam from Trick ‘r Treat.

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31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN | HALLOWEEN

Come on, you knew this one was coming. How could it not? John Carpenter’s Halloween remains the apex slasher film. It is the horror movie that other horror movies wish they could be. It continues to frighten us with each new viewing and leaves the audience on a knifes edge of sanity by the time the credits roll. The moment you hear Halloween’s all too familiar theme music, no matter the situation, you become a little more on edge, a little more alert of your surroundings.

Halloween was co-written, scored, and directed by John Carpenter on a budget of $300,000. (Roughly 10 dollars in today’s money.). It was released in 1978. It tells the story of a young boy named Michael Myers who for reasons unknown kills his older sister on Halloween night. Michael is committed to a mental hospital under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis. Michael escapes the facility as an adult and returns to his hometown for a killing spree while Loomis attempts to track him down.

Halloween set a lot of trends that would become commonplace in slasher films in the eighties and nineties. If Scream satirized the trend, Halloween set it. The fake out where the killer is not really dead, the pure virgin who stands as the lone survivor, these archetypes and others can trace their origins to Halloween.

I believe the reason Halloween became such an important pillar of the horror landscape is simple. The film contains very little blood or gore, and maintains a pretty low body count. It does not frighten us because of what we know, it frightens us because of what we do not know. Michael Myers is seemingly a mad man with no motivation. He’s the Shape, as he’s referred to in the credits. He starts to kill as a child and does not stop until he is seemingly killed by Dr. Loomis. His mask is a ghostly white that only barely resembles a human face, it is a blank canvas on to which the viewer projects their worst fear, Michael Myers can be anyone, anything; he serves no higher purpose but to kill.

Each sequel gives us a little more information on Michael Myers, and each movie gets little worse for it. Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot dedicates a considerable amount of run time to delving deep into Michael Myers disturbed childhood in an effort to find a method to his madness. It completely misses the point, the madness is the method.

Halloween was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry because of its cultural significance in 2006. If it is not already a part of your October routine, it should be.

Don’t miss our other must-see picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here. And stay spooky everybody!

 

Featured Artist | Sooki Martinsen

The work in our featured image is IPC’s own, Sooki Martinsen. A childhood friend who we’re fortunate enough to have help us with things like what you see above and below. Sooki is like, TALENTED. To see more of her work go to www.sookimartinsen.com. Here is Sooki’s take on Michael Myers.

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31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN | THE SHINING

There have been decades’ worth of discussion about The Shining from theories to conspiracy theories to documentaries made about theories and conspiracy theories. So without belaboring things too much I’d like to focus on the basics: Kubrick, Nicholson, and Duvall.

Stanley Kubrick spent a career making you feel uncomfortable. Even in his lesser suspenseful efforts (Dr. Strangelove; 2001: A Space Odyssey) there are moments of unease beneath the surface. Much of this comes from his choices in framing shots or lengthy moments of silence. But in many instances he purposely sets out to screw with you, and those are generally psychological. There’s a wonderful scene in A Clockwork Orange where the water levels in glasses on a table shift drastically from shot to shot. They’re not the focal point of the scene nor are they ever referenced to. But it happens. And only because Kubrick wants you to unknowingly suspect that something isn’t right. The same is done in The Shining when Wendy interrupts Jack’s writing to offer bringing him some sandwiches. Behind Jack, against a wall in the distance, are a table and chair that inexplicably disappear and appear again throughout the scene. Again, no reference. No reason. It wasn’t until seeing the movie multiple times that I’d realized it was happening, and when I did the sense of what I felt in that scene became so obvious.

My job here is to convey to you my thoughts and feelings on Nicholson’s performance. And I am struggling to do so because I keep falling on cliche and hyperbole. Jack Nicholson is mesmerizing in The Shining. Every scene, every line, and every look he gives feels like the culmination of his character. He builds and builds on Jack Torrence’s mental dip into mania with such a natural way about him that when I watched it again this week at a local theater, a friend of mine (who was seeing it for the first time in over a decade) said, “I’m not really sure he was actually acting.”. And THAT’S probably the perfect way of describing it. Nicholson is basically the bug in Men in Black who crawls inside Vincent D’Onofrio and becomes him. Nicholson is eaten and consumed by the character of Jack Torrence and does a Being John Malkovich puppeteer act for 150 minutes.

I’ve already shared my opinion on this site about Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrence, but what’s a few more words? She shines in it as much as Scatman Crothers. Duvall spends the last third of the movie freaking out, and it’s incredible. Before that she appears to be simply a convenient element to the story (a single dad in the early 80’s spending the winter locked up in a hotel with his young son probably wouldn’t fly). So, she’s just there for Jack to bounce his lines off of. But that’s not really the case. Duvall sets the groundwork for everything to come including Jack’s eventual rampage. Yes, she’s a convenience to move the story along, but she’s not a set piece. Her arc is paramount to the entire film, and it would be far less the masterpiece it is without her.

There is no denying the impact and importance The Shining has on it’s place in cinematic history. It’s as perfect even in it’s flaws (purposeful and otherwise) as anything ever made. It is frightening, suspenseful, beautiful, emotional, mechanical, metaphorical, visually striking, obscene, dark, and in the end completely open for interpretation. See it. And if you already have, see it again.

Don’t overlook our other must-see picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.

31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN | THE MONSTER SQUAD

The Monster Squad is better than The Goonies. Let the debate begin.

I love both, but as I grow older and watch both of these childhood movies of mine from the 80’s it’s The Monster Squad that keeps getting better. It’s a kids movie where the kids are smarter than they should be for their own good, but not in a completely unbelievable way. And compared to The Goonies you can actually here what this group of kids is saying in their conversations as they aren’t all yelling in unison. Not to say that kids aren’t like that, but for the sake of watching a story.

I’ll leave any other comparisons to these two aside for the rest of this. Besides, I know that Goonies “never say die.”

But The Monster Squad is totally better.

The Monster Squad consists of a group of pre-teens who meet in a tree clubhouse that love all forms of monsters. They are obsessed and often get in trouble at school for constantly drawing monsters to line their clubhouse walls. Leader Sean (Andre Gower) is joined by his friends Patrick and Horace, while ignoring the attempts of his adorable 5-year-old sister Phoebe to join. Then there’s Eugene, who is a part of the squad, but younger than the rest of the group and doesn’t say much. But when he has an idea it’s a good one.

As fate would have it, the classic movie monsters (the Universal Movie Monsters only not technically because of copyright) led by Dracula include the Wolfman (who’s totally got nards), MummyGillman, and Frankenstein’s Monster have returned. Dracula wants the journal of Van Helsing to take over the world or something. That’s not really the point.

Director/writer Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) and writer Shane Black (and director/writer of Iron Man Three, Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) have made a kids monster movie that deal with everyday issues. Sean’s parents are on the brink of divorce, there’s bullying at the school, and even the death of a police officer in a battle that shows you that this may be a movie for and about kids, but it keeps it just grounded enough.

The writing team shows you that there’s the tortured soul of a man that can’t escape his curse as the Wolfman. When he does meet his demise he thanks his killer for freeing him of it. That’s got depth. But nothing is as poignant as the exchange the kids have with the old man credited only as Scary German Guy.

Scary German Guy: [as Sean, Patrick, and Horace are leaving Scary German Guy’s house] I expect you boys thought I was some kind of monster myself, mm? A vampire, perhaps? That’s quite all right. But I am not, you know. If I were a vampire, then I wouldn’t have a reflection…
[points to mirror, where he is clearly visible]
Scary German Guy: … now would I?
Horace: Man, you sure know a lot about monsters.
Scary German Guy: Now that you mention it, I suppose I do.
[Scary German Guy closes door, revealing a concentration camp tattoo on his wrist]

Didn’t expect that did you? And it’s one of my favorite moments of any movie.

Another favorite scene is where Dracula lifts Phoebe up by the neck and she screams in pure terror. How was that so convincing of her? It’s because it was REAL!  Duncan Regehr wouldn’t wear his red contacts or fangs around the young actress because it scared her too much. For this scene, Dekker just told Ashley to scream once the platform raised her. When she asked, “When?” Dekker told her, “Oh, you’ll know.” When Dracula opens his eyes this is the first she sees them and it doesn’t help that he screams at her, “Give me the amulet, you BITCH!”

Could go on about how Stan Winston made the creature designs or that the Wolfman is modeled after his face. And how Frankenstein’s Monster was played by Tom Noonan IN CHARACTER the whole time around the child actor’s. I love these details, many of which I found out on the commentary track, but I won’t continue because there’s really so much more to this film. It’s funny, is soaked in the genre, and adores it as well. Shane Black is one of the greatest screenwriters we have. I could not be happier that him and Fred Dekker are teaming up for a new Predator film (!!!).

 

If you’ve got the nards then check out our other  31 Days of Halloween choices here.

31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN | THE EXORCIST

You can read about demonic possession. You can listen to stories about it. Or you can watch it happen as a growling beast asserts itself, amongst other things, into the body of a child in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.

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Father Karras is in the subway and a bum says to him, “Father, could you help an old altar boy? I’m Cat’lick.” Later in the film during the exorcism we hear the demon, Pazuzu say those same words in the same voice. This scene is the one that scares me the most in The Exorcist. A movie so full of moments that truly horrify.

This is the demons way of confirming that evil is all around us, even when we don’t think it is. That’s never left me. Whether it’s true or not I’m not sure, but it’s still effective.

The images during the final exorcism scene with the priests chanting “The power of Christ compels you!” over her body as it levitates above the bed are forever stained in our imaginations and our pop culture subconsciousness. This is an absolute classic not only in horror, but in film as a whole.

 

The power of pop culture compels you to see what else made our must-see picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.