Sunday, October 20, 2013

Horror Fest VIII (Day Two): Curse of Chucky and Trick 'r Treat

  After an episode of Tales from the Crypt ("Beauty Rest," for those curious) and waiting for some attendees to run to get some food, it was time for the double feature "main event," the unveiling of Curse of Chucky for audiences who barely knew it existed and the return of Trick 'r Treat for the first time since Horror Fest IV: The Final Chapter! As I expected, neither disappointed, but other than Demons, Horror Fest VIII has (to this point) been quite the success.

 Like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, attentive readers are no doubt aware that I already reviewed Curse of Chucky to kick off Shocktober. Unfortunately for those of you reading this, I don't have much to add to that review (feel free to click on that link, I'll be here when you get back), but as it's been a few weeks since the beginning of the month, I'm comfortable spoiling a little bit of the movie and describing how it plays with a larger crowd.

 As the Cap'n suspected, Curse of Chucky works very well with fans and relative newbies to the Child's Play series alike. Some long time fans came in with trepidation, but Don Mancini's willingness to play with expectations goes a long way towards easing any doubts about Curse's "direct to video" stigma. The misdirect about who the nanny was "shtupping," about how Nica's family fits into the Charles Lee Ray back story (and how that retcons into Child's Play), and the kills in particular were big hits, but the cameos that close out the film really sealed the deal. Aside from having to explain why Jennifer Tilly appeared as Tiffany (again, if you haven't seen the ending of Seed of Chucky in a while, you might want to jog your memory), that was the most welcome of the two.

 It was a little trickier with the post-credits Alex Vincent reprising Andy Barclay, mostly because you don't immediately recognize him (for obvious reasons). They do a pretty good job of catching you up quickly, but the interaction between Chucky and Andy is so brief and the final cut so abrupt that I almost with Mancini had left it out. Yes, it helps set up an inevitable Child's Play 7 or Chucky 4 or however you like to keep track of them, but the actual, post-Jennifer Tilly ending with the "hide the soul" and grandma is a more effective way to close out the film. It also leaves you with the question about whether Chucky did transfer his soul or not, because there's no way that little girl would know who Andy was.

 But I'm picking nits, here, folks; Curse of Chucky is not only a better movie than any of us thought we'd get, but probably up there in the Child's Play series overall.


 While several people had to split after Curse of Chucky (it was getting late and we're getting old and boring, what can I say?), I had the distinct pleasure of watching Trick 'r Treat with one person who had seen the film and one person who hadn't. The nice thing is that both of them still saw the movie a new way.

 Looking back at my Horror Fest IV coverage, I noticed something: the recaps were a LOT shorter. Take a look at this and see if you can come away with much of anything about Trick 'r Treat of substance. I couldn't, and I wrote it. And that was four years ago, when I had the stamina to watch all of those movies and get reviews together before going to bed (oops... *SPOILER*). Well, it's been four years and the Cap'n is nothing if not long winded these days, so let's give you a more "proper" look at Michael Dougherty's excellent addition to the Horror Anthology pantheon.

 I still contend it's better not to know all of the twists and turns of Trick 'r Treat going in, because the construction of the anthology is such that it rewards the uninitiated. Watching it a second, third, or fourth time, even when you know how the chronology works (SPOILER: the movie isn't told sequentially, and the overlapping stories aren't always intercut to reflect that), you're going to catch things in the background that give you some idea of where the beginning of the movie fits in with the school bus story, the Principal's story, Mr. Kreeg's story, and the girls' night out story.

 The trickiest editing is actually right after the prologue, where two stories (not going to spoil which ones) cut back and forth when a major character overlaps between the two and they seem to take place hours apart. In fact, I'm only a little fuzzy about how early in the story Principal Wilkins' story is supposed to take place (it has to happen before the prologue and during Kreeg's fight with Sam), but it also has to take place well before the pumpkin collectors take Rhonda (Samm Todd) to the quarry. Why? Because there's a direct spoiler to the "twist" in the Laurie (Anna Paquin) / "vampire" story - while they're in the elevator going into the quarry, Rhonda identifies the howling well before we cut back to Sheep's Grove (as is evidenced by the fact that Sam made it back from the quarry and is watching the girls party). It makes sense in a fashion, but Wilkins (Dylan Baker) and his son (Connor Christopher Levins) must have taken care of Charlie well before the news report about the Halloween parade downtown.

 Every time I watch Trick 'r Treat (and I try to every year near Halloween), I pick up on some other detail in Dougherty's insanely planned narrative. It's quite a draw to revisit the film, even if it weren't already a fun, suspenseful, and at times downright creepy experience to begin with. Some day, I'd love to see this in a theatre with a really big audience; I bet it plays like gangbusters.

 One final note that came up during a post-movie discussion: both of the guys who stayed late to watch Trick 'r Treat have kids, so we ended up talking about what a shame it is that parts are so violent / disturbing, because the movie does a great job of explaining why Halloween / Samhain is important culturally, but also why there are "rules." There may be no better demonstration of why you should always check your candy than the beginning of the Principal Wilkins story, why we decorate our yards and dress up, or why respecting the dead is important. They're packaged in a supernaturally charged fashion that is, almost without fail, exceptional, but underneath everything is a celebration of why Halloween continues to be such an instrumental holiday, and why October is the best month of the year for a lot of people, the Cap'n included.

 Up Next: Why am I still awake? Oh, right, because Day Two closed out with The Haunting and The Woman in Black! I may never get to sleep...

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