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Heroes of the Zeroes: Trick ‘r Treat

by on November 5, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Trick ‘r Treat”
Rated R

Screenwriter Michael Dougherty (“Superman Returns”) filmed his feature-length directorial  debut in 2006 and Warner Brothers repeatedly slotted, scratched and shelved it until scuttling it to DVD in 2009.

One comfort: Dougherty can say he was onto the creepy-mask motif waaaaay before “The Strangers,” “The Orphanage” or “Timecrimes.”

More cheeky than chilling, “Trick ’r Treat” is akin to sitting for a spell at a spooky campfire. As it would be alongside warm flames on cool nights, the power of the spun myths and legends is all in the storyteller’s style. Dougherty’s film delivers the mercilessly nasty goods with fluid grace and demented glee.

Several stories dovetail, with interweaving timelines: a Poindexter-ish serial killer (Dylan Baker) embarks on a macabre misadventure in burial; a virginal college girl (Anna Paquin) dressed as Little Red Riding Hood runs afoul of a toothsome, and fanged, suitor; several younger kids drudge up bad memories at the site of a tragic death; and a crotchety shut-in (Brian Cox) battles a hard-to-kill demon.

Each segment is infused with a twist as diabolical as its wit, Halloween is amusingly painted as a sort of frat-house holiday for inhibitions, and there hasn’t been a more comically grotesque scene of projectile vomit since “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.”

If “Trick ’r Treat” drags anywhere, it’s in the final bit — a drawn-out “Trilogy of Terror” mimic that nevertheless takes on intriguing dimensions both dastardly and Dickensian. It’s got just enough gravity, gore and goofiness to become appointment October viewing.