The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Cinematic treats

Just four-and-a-half minutes into writer-director Michael Dougherty’s 2007 horror flick “Trick ‘r Treat”, we see Leslie Bibb’s character get her head chopped off by a jack-o-lantern-shaped lollipop. This saccharine decapitation may seem to set the bar pretty high, in terms of gore and sheer absurdity—even within the categorically ridiculous universe of low and middling-budget, straight-to-DVD horror films—but it proves to be merely par for the course for a movie admirably dedicated to a freakishly (if somewhat stupidly) entertaining horror aesthetic, invariably at the expense of believability and cinematic quality.

Making his directorial debut, Dougherty (best known for his work on the screenplays of the tepidly-received “Superman Returns” and the not-too-shabby X-Men sequel, “X2”) delivers an originally structured story, continuously jumping back and forth between characters and temporal points. The result comes across as something closer to a collection of vignettes than a conventional feature film narrative. The movie focuses on four intertwined tales, all set on Halloween night in the generally sleepy town of Warren Valley, Ohio: a young married couple is harassed by a holiday demon, a murderous educator is on the prowl for innocent victims, a Goonies-esque band of youngsters investigates a dark local legend and a beautiful young woman (the film’s only semblance of a star in Anna Paquin—Rogue in “X2”, and that sultry undergrad Jeff Daniels tries to get with in “The Squid and the Whale”) comes to town with three friends, seemingly looking for nothing more than a good time, but perhaps with a slightly more menacing agenda.

What follows is fairly typical of the theatrical excess that has come to characterize the genre: severed heads, bared breasts, protracted projectile vomiting, a disembodied hand wriggling its way across the floor towards its victim (à la “Evil Dead II”), and some pretty awful werewolf puppets—general mayhem, really.

The effect on the viewer is likely to be more often comic than frightening, at least when examined from any kind of critical distance, but in no way does this detract from the film’s ability to entertain.

To his credit, Dougherty does do some fairly interesting things with chronology, allowing glimpses of later sub-plots to work their way into early scenes. The film is most compelling, and certainly most frightening, when forcing the viewer to wait for a shock he or she has in part already seen.

You might not be scared silly by “Trick ‘r Treat” and you certainly won’t be blown away by its content. But if you simply embrace it for what it is—a truly bad horror film—you are sure to be entertained.

“Trick ‘r Treat” will be screening this Saturday, 10/29, in Harris Cinema at 6:30 and 9:00 p.m. Critically-acclaimed Norwegian monster flick “The Troll Hunter” will be showing on Friday, 10/28, at 6:30 and 9:00 p.m.

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