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a sense of joy and then a panic
a sense of joy and then a panic
January 10th, 2010 
half-light
Trick 'r Treat (2008)



Straight to video movie with a couple name actors, featuring four intertwined horror stories taking place on Halloween in a little town that clearly everyone should move the hell out of.  There's another story that bookends the movie, and is about fifteen minutes of a yuppie couple deciding to take down their Halloween decorations before the night is over (Bad Idea!).  Then there's the four actual stories, which all work to a respectable degree.  First there's a child-killing school principal, played by eternal creepo actor Dylan Baker.  This one doesn't feel very complete, but the vibe is darkly funny.  There's some gratuitous vomiting in this one.  Then we have the young-adult take on Halloween - a group of twenty-something girls prancing around in slutty costumes, trying to get dates.  The "runt of the litter," Anna Paquin, is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and is the introvert of the group, so she stays behind and attracts the attention of a masked executioner with vampire fangs.  This one has a delicious twist ending that I - for obvious reasons - got a total kick out of.  This is the kind of thing I would write, so I enjoyed it.  Then we're back with a group of realistically nasty middle-school kids collecting a bunch of jack-o-lanterns to offer as sacrifices to the victims of The Great School Bus Massacre, an urban legend that claims a bus driver drove a bunch of special ed/disturbed kids into a lake on behest of their parents.  This is way more brutal than anything you'd read in Goosebumps, and very creepy.  But giving it a run for creepiness is the last story, about a recluse old man who hates Halloween and is attacked by a little demon-boy with a burlap head (think: The Orphanage). 

They're not told sequentially, and transitions are in pseudo-comic-book format - so there's back-and-forth time things, like Earlier and Later.  They're also all ~connected~, sometimes quite cleverly.  Kind of like the camp-horror version of Magnolia/Traffic/Babel, if you will.  Just because of the non-traditional format and rather old-fashioned (non-teeny-bopper, and the "slasher" trope is subverted violently) version of horror, I don't know if it would have succeeded in theaters.  But it's definitely worth a rental, even a new releases rental, because it's nifty and creepy, and certainly better than anything you'll see on SyFy.  Horror fans and non-horror fans alike should give this one a shot. 

The Unborn
(2009)

And now, a Hollywood movie with a very standard contemporary approach to paranormal-horror.  At least it's not a remake of a Japanese movie - but it may as well be.  A girl who looks like Megan Fox (but isn't) is seeing things, like a creepy little boy and a mysterious blue glove and another creepy little boy who is actually her neighbor.  She has bad dreams.  Her mother committed suicide in a mental hospital.  Oh, and it turns out she had a twin brother who died in utero.  It seems like she's being haunted by this dead twin (a truly wonderful and frightening X-Files episode, incidentally).  Er, except not.  The actual explanation involves, believe it or not, Auschwitz (where the Nazis laid their victims on gurneys and covered them with sheets, don't you know?!), and demons, and becomes really needlessly complicated.  Why not just make it the dead twin brother?  I don't know why.  Maybe because demons require exorcisms, and Hollywood's developed a real fetish for violent exorcisms. 

Anyway, this is a very structurally poor, borderline nonsensical movie - and also riddled with cliches.  Girl Who Looks Like Megan Fox is a horrible actress (no surprise, I suppose) who says horrible lines of dialogue.  But it uses visual horror tropes too, and wrings them hard - we've got both a mental asylum and a retirement home here, both a haunted videotape and a haunted photograph, both Exorcist-style possessions and The Grudge-style crawling bodies, both dead fetuses and malformed animals.  If you're in a public bathroom, it's not only the mirror that's haunted, it's the toilet stall too.  And the result of all this relentless horror is a movie that's unfairly scary, given how bad the story is.  It's not clever.  It's just JUMP.
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