It seems particularly appropriate that a film as steeped in Halloween lore as Mike Dougherty’s “Trick’r’Treat” is impossible to kill, once more rising from the dead to close out what sounds like it’s been an amazing event here in Los Angeles, Beyond Fest, which evidently blew minds all last week with a trio of live performances by prog-rock horror icons Goblin among other things.
This evening, Beyond Fest will present a special screening of Dougherty’s horror anthology, and it sounds to me like this is Legendary’s way of launching whatever the next chapter in the life of “Trick’r’Treat” is going to be. One of the first real conversations I had with Thomas Tull was about this movie, an early production by the studio, and something they have been passionate about since day one. The film never quite managed an actual theatrical release, but it has still managed to build a fairly devoted audience, and deservedly so. It is a clever, nasty little bit of business, and it seems like they could easily build off of this first film to pull off what John Carpenter and Debra Hill once envisioned as the way to manage the “Halloween” franchise, unrelated films all connected only by the date on which they take place. Dougherty didn’t really tackle the film like a typical horror filmmaker. It’s got a very particular, very odd sensibility, and it stands out because it doesn’t have the same voice as everything else in the genre.
One of the most iconic touches of Dougherty’s film is the character Sam, a wee little pumpkin headed nasty who looks like a costumed little boy but who seems to be something far stranger and more dangerous. Sam was a longtime obsession for Dougherty, who’d been drawing him for years before he made the movie, and Quinn Lord, who played Sam, will be at the screening at Beyond Fest.
In fact, it sounds like the post-screening panel is going to be a big deal for fans of the film. Dylan Baker and Brian Cox have both been confirmed and will participate, and Seth Green will moderate the event. If you aren’t going to be at the event, don’t worry. Legendary will be live-streaming the screening and the panel on their Facebook page. Yes, that’s right… they’re live-streaming the screening. How cool is that?
When the first announcement broke about this event, I jumped on the phone with Mike Dougherty to talk about the film’s amazing second wind. I’ve known Mike for many years now, and when “Trick’r’Treat” was still struggling to manage a theatrical release, I not only saw it at the first BNAT screening, but also hosted a special event for it at the Chinese Theater in LA. Seeing this film with a crowd is enormous fun, and I wanted to talk to Dougherty about how this new screening ended up happening.
“I didn’t have to convince anybody. It was all Legendary. They called up last month and said, ‘We hear the fans. This movie has only continued to grow.’ As you know, most movies don’t do that. Legendary said, ‘We want to do a screening at the Egyptian. We want to gather as much cast and crew as we can, and we want to livestream the whole event over our Facebook page,’ and so my jaw just hit the floor. I said, ‘When do you want to do this?’ and they said, ‘October 28th.’ Oh, so you want to have a cool event screening of my movie on my birthday? ‘Oh, it’s your birthday? Sure. Great.’ Everythign just lined up perfectly. Legendary’s really been expanding in a very cool way, and they have the resources and the infrastructure now to run with this, and so I’ve just kinda sat back and watched them go crazy with the title and develop the brand.”
I asked Mike if he’s going to be doing something new with Sam or with the title, and mentioned how long Sam seems to have been part of his creative life at this point. “Yeah, he’s always just sort of lived at the back of my head, and first popped out in an animated short. I think the little fucker’s going to outlive me. I think Legendary’s seen that. The amount of fan costumes, artwork on DeviantArt and Tumblr… the Internet has grabbed the character and embraced him. Oh, my god, the amount of tattoos. I was at Toi on Sunset, and the waitress had a Sam tattoo sleeve up and down her arm. This little thing I drew as a film student is one someone’s arm. That’s crazy.”
Because the film never got a full theatrical release, screening only a handful of times that way before it ended up going to home video, Dougherty holds those screenings very dear, and we discussed the screening that was held in Austin at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, which I attended, and how much that meant to him. “I was at my lowest of low points in terms of my experience with the film. I didn’t know what it was, and I heard through the grapevine that the studio thought it was an ugly baby. So that was the first time I felt that nerd geek love. It was a roomful of people who know their shit, whether it was the online critics and bloggers or just the Austin film community, it was people saying ‘This is good. This is interesting. There’s something here. Don’t give up.’ So that was a real milestone. Legendary’s always been a big supporter, and I think this is them saying wanting to push it out even further. While it was fully embraced by the geek community early, it’s only now that it’s starting to go mainstream, four years after it arrived on DVD.”
If you know the film and enjoy it, tuning in for tonight’s event should be a blast, and if you’re not familiar with it, what better opportunity are you going to have to catch up and check it out for yourself?
And check out Odd City’s special limited edition print created for the screening tonight:
Gorgeous. Anyone at the actual live event gets one of those, and they’re going to sell 100 numbered prints and 85 glow-in-the-dark variants that will be on sale tomorrow on their official site.
Heady times for this little horror film that could, and I hope this helps not only get the film out there, but helps Mike Dougherty get whatever’s next off the ground as well. Love it or hate it, “Trick’r’Treat” has a voice, and I’d love to hear more of it.
“Trick’r’Treat” is available on DVD and Blu-ray.