Monday, October 26, 2009
We started doing Movies Schmovies five years ago, so we've been around the block a few times when it comes to bad movies. Over that time, we've assembled a pretty consistent assortment of truisms. Among them: local video rental places are endless fonts of awful movies, large budgets and commercial success can produce low-quality shit just as readily as teenagers with camcorders, and vignette movies are always good for a laugh.
I've lost count of all the vignette movies we've rented, watched, and suffered through over the last few years. Off the top of my head, there's Tales from the Hood, Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror, Nite Tales, Creepshow 1-3, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Campfire Tales, Campfire Stories, Ghost Stories1, Quicksilver Highway, and I'm sure there are several more. The vast majority of them have been really, really stupid--though there are some notable moments of stupidity--such as Buster Poindexter's Ranger Bill in Campfire Stories (the source of the blog's title quote), or Flavor Flav apparently being unaware that this genre existed prior to Nite Tales (or that he, as the film's host, should have some kind of personality).
So when a horror anthology actually turns out to be good...well, we don't know how to feel about that, really. With the possible exception of Twilight Zone, that hasn't really happened before (and even that's stretching a bit). It'd be like a Michael Bay movie without explosions, a Tim Burton flick that didn't extol the weird and decry normalcy, a video game movie worth watching, collard greens that don't taste good, or a tree that's not made out of wood!
This is the dilemma we found ourselves in when watching Trick 'r Treat. Direct-to-DVD horror vignette movies are always cause for celebration around the Movies Schmovies compound, so we were pretty excited about it long before we'd actually heard anything. And then we started hearing things, things like "it's really good." This, naturally, intrigued us--such a thing surely wasn't possible. And let's face it, people said Paranormal Activity was going to be good too.
So we decided that this past weekend's soiree would begin with Paranormal Activity and end with a rental of Trick 'r Treat. This plan hit a snag when I actually tried to rent the movie, and found that there was a waiting list. Another nearby video store was similarly devoid of the film, so I resorted to the purchasing option. Here, too, I was met with defeat: every DVD store I visited on this side of the Mississippi had sold out. We finally managed to pick up the last copy at a Wal-Mart in Iowa on the night of the festivities, shortly before our ill-fated visit to one couple's sprawling San Diego estate.
So perhaps it was just the lingering stupor of shaky-cam garbage, but we actually really enjoyed Trick 'r Treat. The stories were clever and fun, never taking themselves too seriously. We've seen attempts to intertwine vignettes in films like this before, and such attempts rarely work. Here, the storylines weave in and out of one another, jumping back and forth in time, and doing so with a natural fluidity. The real benefit of this method was that it allowed for multiple twists in each story, and tied up different plot and character threads in unexpected ways.
The cast is largely drawn from recent superhero movies, boasting one X-Man, one X-Man villain, and Spider-Man's professor. The presence of real actors--as opposed to rappers--already set this film above the bar set by its contemporaries. Some of the characters are certainly more developed than others, and I'm not sure Dylan Baker's character quite worked in all the ways they used him, but overall the stories were pretty good. Overall, the whole movie is a celebration of Halloween, at times creepy and at times goofy and reveling in both.
I could go into more detail, but you'd be better off finding out for yourselves. Netflix or Blockbuster or whatever, you might as well give Trick 'r Treat a try. You could do a lot worse.
1. I hesitate to include this one, since it barely met the qualifications of "movie." It was more like a tape of community theater monologues.