Tonight Aint It Cool News sponsored a screening of Michael Dougherty’s Trick R Treat for a crowd that wasn’t just capacity but overflow, where hundreds of people had to be turned away at the door. This amount of interest comes because the film has been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years now, despite tons of positive word and buzz. Warner Bros spent 12 million dollars on the film and seem unwilling to release it.
That is a sin. I am going to do a real review of the movie next week (for Halloween, of course), but I’ll tell you now that Dougherty, probably best known as a writer on X2 and Superman Returns, is a terrific director. He’s made a movie that’s fun, gory, scary and a blast to sit through, especially with an enthusiastic audience. He got every dime of that 12 million on screen in the form of a great ensemble cast, wonderful practical effects and more than a little bit of beautiful cinematography. He’s made a movie that felt to me like a connecting point between Creepshow and Gremlins, where the horror films of the 80s meet the Amblin fantasy movies, the little bit of nightmare on the edge of childhood.
The bummer is that I should have been at a screening of Trick R Treat 2 tonight; after the screening Dougherty told me that his vision was to have one of these a year, bringing different directors on board to bring their own vision to the material while still playing in the same universe. I’d like to visit the alternate universe where that happened. Instead, the film has been relegated to the studio vault and the occasional film festival screening.
What happened? Dougherty tries to answer that question as nicely as possible – after all, he’s still hoping to get Warner Bros to release the film – but it seems to me like a classic case of a movie being too original. It’s not that Trick R Treat is redefining the genre or something, it’s that the movie doesn’t fit in the mold of what the studios see as successful. It’s not a remake. It’s not a sequel. It’s not a rip off of another popular movie. And when faced with something that’s not an easy sell, the studios often balk.
The other problem is Saw. At some point in the last five years, the month of October was essentially ceded to Saw, at least when it comes to horror movies. Trick R Treat needs an October date, but if the studios see Saw as supreme – when in fact the series is winding down and only getting the Halloween dollars by default – they don’t want to risk going against the reigning champ. I think that Trick R Treat could have been a Saw killer, but we’ll never know.
At this point I just want this movie to hit theaters. It’s a theatrical film, one that looks great on a big screen. It doesn’t deserve to be relegated to your home theater. Especially because your home theater doesn’t come with hundreds of people who jump at the good scares or clap at the great reveals. Trick R Treat is a movie that really works as a communal experience.
Look for my full review of the film next week, but in the meantime, if you happen to run into a Warner Bros executive, ask them when you’re going to be able to see the best horror movie never released.