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'Tis the Season to be Scary: Why Trick R Treat is to Halloween as A Christmas Story is to Christmas

By Rob Payne | Think Pieces | October 30, 2012 | Comments ()


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As is appropriate for the two most popular and publicly celebrated holidays, more than enough movies have been made about or around both Halloween and Christmas. There are plenty of options to choose from when deciding what to watch to get in the spirit of the seasons, including-but-not-limited-to the Jasons and Freddies, the Screams, A Wonderful Life, Ernest Saves Christmas, and Die Hard. But only one movie from either holiday gets the privilege of a 24 hour marathon on cable television every Christmas Eve for over a decade: A Christmas Story. If you've seen the movie -- and at this point very few of us haven't -- it isn't hard to see why it's held in such high esteem to audiences of all ages. Quite simply, the movie gets everything about the holiday season and our feelings for it and the day itself exactly right. The movie is probably the only one in existence where the sight of a disembodied leg brings shouts of joy rather than screams of terror, not to mention the most profitable piece of its merchandizing puzzle. A Christmas Story is just the right amount of nostalgia without ever overstaying its welcome or overstating its purpose.

Oddly enough, for a holiday that actually has a series of successively terrible films named after it, Halloween doesn't really have any movies that our culture has collectively deemed the perfect distillation of what that holiday means to us and also what it feels like whether you're in costume or not. Halloween has no movie that's trope-filled and terrifying enough to air repeatedly in a single 24 hour sitting, at least not one that's been universally recognized. Unfortunately, the recently released Fun Size probably won't be able to fill that jack-o-lantern-sized hole, either. But there should be, and thankfully that movie was already released some time ago, after years of delays and being relegated to the home video marketplace: Michael Dougherty's Trick R Treat. For those who have seen it -- and that is a decidedly smaller number of people than those who have even heard of A Christmas Story -- deeming it the quintessential Halloween flick shouldn't be too surprising.

For the rest of you, here's why you should be gearing up for your own Trick R Treat marathon for the rest of All Hallows' Eve and throughout All Saints' Day:

The Holiday Setting
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As every scene in Story is filled out with green and red Christmas ornaments and lights, and many inches of thick, white snow, so every scene in Trick is filled out with orange and black Halloween decorations, and many liters of thick, red blood. Other than the inconveniences and conveniences of each movie's varying time frames, they offer very little of the world outside their small towns and absolutely nothing that doesn't pertain to their respective holiday seasons. The constantly themed set dressings and costume choices invoke a timeless quality to both movies, making them perfect for yearly viewings.


The Holiday Rituals
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On top of everything looking like its Halloween or Christmas, both films spend practically of their run times documenting the annual traditions we follow to celebrate our favorite holidays. Carving pumpkins, baking cookies, visiting Santa to ask for gifts (obviously), trick-or-treating for candy (even more obviously), opening said gifts, opening said candy, sharing meals with loved ones, telling ghost stories to friends, and both feature the dressing up in costumes and chaotic shopping sprees leading up to the big days. The movies aren't just set during the holidays, they fundamentally catalog those rites and rituals we observe. Since we never really get tired of Christmas or Halloween, it's only logical we'll also never tire of these movies.


The Holiday Cheer
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Christmas and Halloween are integral not only to the sets and plot lines of Story and Trick but also to the characters who inhabit them. Either in celebrating the holidays or in cursing them like Scrooge, the characters in both movies are guided by their desires to experience the seasons on their own terms. Like Harold and Kumar's search for White Castle and Lewis and Clark's expedition through the West, these are people motivated solely and entirely by how they interact with the universe during, and because of, the holiday festivities. Exactly like those of us watching at home at some point in the weeks and days before October 31st and December 25th.


The Holiday Spirit
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With symbols like the Red Ryder BB gun and the leg lamp, as well as events like a friend's frozen tongue and the pink bunny outfit, Story plugs into the cherished and lost childlike innocence that every Christmas movie, TV special, and snow man tries to evoke in even the most churlish amongst us. Similarly, Trick uses the symbols of our most lasting horror tropes like vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the campfire tale to give us all the things we feared in our childhoods and everything we take delight in our aged immaturity, in one 82 minute package. But the true spirits of each holiday, in the sense of how they are truly appreciated, reside in the similarly stature'd forms of Sam and Ralphie. Ralphie is Story's keeper of the Christmas candle in his role as audience surrogate, and Sam is Trick's figurative avatar and literal embodiment of Halloween -- a murderous eight year-old who really wants his just desserts. What two better seasons greeters could we ask for?


As our esteemed horror and torture basement aficionado TK wrote in his original review, Trick R Treat isn't a game changer and doesn't exactly redefine the genre. (That's what Cabin in the Woods was for.) Though, Trick does improve upon anthologies like Creepshow with its interwoven narrative. Regardless, A Christmas Story, lying somewhere between the sentiment of Miracle on 34th Street and the irony of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, doesn't really do anything new with its genre's material, either. Considering that Christmas and Halloween aren't exactly known for their substance, but instead the frothiness of their moments, it's actually quite appropriate that both movies are best known for the power of their execution than the newness of their ideas. Like finding presents under the tree on Christmas morning or organizing candy after a long night trick-or-treating, A Christmas Story and Trick R Treat are exactly as satisfying as they need to be.

TBS would be likely too timid for a full marathon, so stations like Spike or G4 or AMC (since "American Movie Classics" is already willing to broadcast Thinner) would have to step in. But even if they don't, if you like horror movies and love Halloween then you should find a way to watch Trick R Treat as soon as you can, whether you've already seen it or not. Then tell your friends to do the same, or, hell, watch it with them. We can pay this bloody brilliance forward until it rises from the depths of cult status to something like the cultural saturation of Nightmare Before Christmas. Just like Haley Joel Osment's ghost would have wanted.


Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be found here. Now that he's thought about it, he's pretty sure Trick R Treat and A Christmas Story would make a weird but damn double feature... on Thanksgiving.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • ,

    "Since we never really get tired of Christmas or Halloween"

    Speak for yourself. They're two holidays that adults have stolen from children and refuse to give back. One has become an excuse for a frenzy/orgy of shopping and the other for drunken debauchery (not that there's anything wrong with that, but amateur adults already have New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day to vastly overestimate their capacity for strong liquor in public) while forcing the kids to trick-or-treat at fucking community centers in the broad fucking daylight.

    Adults (anyone over 12, really) have no fucking business being anywhere in costume on Halloween except at the front door, where their role should be confined to handing out candy and scaring the bejesus out of 5-year-olds.

  • junierizzle

    Hell yeah. This became my Halloween go to movie a couple of years ago.

  • 100 times yes on this. Watched it again on Saturday, don't understand why we can't have a new Trick 'r Treat every year instead of umpteen PAs and Saw movies.

  • dagnabbit

    Ok let's ignore the obvious from a mile away "twist" with Sookie or whatever. TRT has problems. What should be the best story is the most frustrating for me. What makes that girl an idiot savant? Is it because the characters keep saying it? Is it because she seems a little shy? Perhaps because she is slightly less good looking than the others? Or because she likes decorating for Halloween? There is absolutely nothing about the way this girl is presented to make it seem sensible to be ostracised to that extreme, and similarly the other kids just don't seem mean enough to treat anyone that way who wasn't a complete freak. Consequently, that whole sequence collapses because nothing is believable. This is sloppy storytelling, something that sets Trick R Treat apart from A Christmas Story.

  • TheAggroCraig

    No movie puts me in the Halloween spirit better than this one.

  • Robert

    Halloween is time for the Roger Corman Poe film marathon. The moodiness sets off the holiday just right.

  • buell

    Found this movie at Walmart in the $5 bin so I figured if it sucked I wasn't out much. This movie redeemed my opinion of Anna Paquin's acting. Loved it.

  • googergieger

    I have a Korean flick that was banned in Korea someone gave to me like three years ago. I haven't watched it yet because most horror does tend to bore me and if it is snuff, well, bores me too. Still might get drunk and watch it with some friends.

    In any case, Trick R Treat was a fun movie. Wouldn't marathon it, but I wouldn't marathon any one movie really. Might marathon a ton of French horror movies though. Those mofos know how to do it.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Love this!

  • RilesSD

    LOVE this flick. Will be watching this week.

    The movie's twitter (@trickrtreat) just tweeted this post out too.

  • FEARnet does a 24 hr marathon. And did you mean Cabin in the Woods, not Cabin Fever?

  • I watched Trick R Treat for the first time a couple weeks ago and i've already watched it 3x since then. LOVE it and cannot believe it took me so long to see it! It will definately become a Halloween tradition movie for me from now on.

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