If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Michael Dougherty’s directorial debut, Trick R Treat. Thankfully, the end is nigh and I had the opportunity to sit down for a roundtable discussion with writer-director Michael Dougherty and cast members Lauren Lee Smith and Brian Cox for some inside scoop. More after the jump —
First, let’s get the most important information out up front. You will be able to pick up your own copy of Trick R Treat on DVD and Blu-ray come October, just in time for Halloween. If you’re lucky enough, it will also be making the festival circuit and you should know, this movie should be seen with an audience.
The film is a love letter to Halloween. It’s an anthology film with four interlocking stories. A haunted aging man who hates Halloween is taunted by a mysterious youth. A principal and single dad moonlights as a serial killer. A young girl is convinced that she is ready for her first time by her trio of female companions. A group of kids tempt fate when they decide to investigate the site of a school bus slaughter for a prank. The moral of the movie is know and honor the rules of Halloween.
The big star of the movie is Sam, the mysterious seemingly youthful character and one of the main interlocking forces. You can readily identify Sam by the burlap sack he wears over his head. Brian Cox plays the tormented Old Man perfectly. Though his crankiness makes you think you would cheer on his torment, a masterful turnaround once he’s really put into jeopardy makes you start to root for him. Lauren Lee Smith plays the guiding force and older sister to Anna Paquin’s . They appear to be average horny young women, but it’s Halloween, so costumes abound.
Writer-Director Dougherty shows his love for the genre through proper use of scares as well as laughs. It’s in his eyes when you talk to him as there’s no way he can hide his excitement in speaking on the genre subject. When asked, Dougherty cited Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow as influences. Trick R Treat starts as a short, hand-animated film Dougherty made at NYU featuring Sam. Thankfully, this will be included on the BluRay release. The BluRay will also include deleted scenes and commentary. Dougherty grew up obsessed with Halloween and it probably didn’t hurt that his birthday is just three days prior. Dougherty expressed his interest in returning to this as an annual series with a returning Sam and any number of characters despite being living challenged — after all, Halloween is a day that the dead walk the Earth. Dougherty’s scariest films as a child were Alien (which an unknowing nun put on for his fifth grade class) and Changeling.
Lauren Lee Smith was sold on her role of when she was told she’d be playing a “storybook princess.” With her charming presence and easy smile, you could see her in that princess role. The script was being kept secret so she was pretty surprised by what her role ultimately was. Her favorite scary movie is The Shining, but she was affected by Nightmare on Elm Street when her parents put it on for her at the tender age of six. Lauren would love to have a go at some comedy and would also appreciate the opportunity to work with John Malkovich, Christopher Walken, Sean Penn and Kate Winslet. Of course, she’d also love a shot at a role on True Blood with Trick R Treat co-star Anna Paquin. If she could have a superpower, she’d choose flying, but a close second would be the ability to make herself invisible. Lauren will next be seen starring alongside Ashley Judd in Helen and just finished CSI season nine.
Brian Cox described his Trick R Treat character Mr. Kreeg as a recluse living in the aftermath of a horrible accident and plagued by the demons of Halloween — he hates Halloween. Speaking of Halloween, he designed his makeup to be reminiscent of John Carpenter, but finds that it ended up being a cross between him and Jerry Garcia and loved the connection because he was a member of the Grateful Dead which plays well into his character. Cox never read the script, instead after being recruited by Dougherty, Dan Harris and Bryan Singer, he decided to take the role on as an experiment. He didn’t read the script and instead trusted in the talents of his director to properly guide him through. Only after production did he get the chance to appreciate the project in its entirety. He felt that this experience was one of the most liberating he’d ever worked on. Cox spoke of his desire for a change in distribution and moviegoing. He loves the ability to share an experience with an audience, but isn’t a fan of the sterile multiplex, preferring a real architecture and personality. He also rallied against the “creed of avoidance” that technology has built for the world, calling Facebook “Horrific!” and worrying about a time much akin to Wall-E wherein people never have to move about to get things and never get the time to properly interact with other people. Cox’s next project will be on the stage of the UK’s National Theater for a one-man version of Lolita written by Richard Nelson. He will next be seen on the screen alongside Paul Dano in The Good Heart, which will screen at the Toronto Film Festival. As our roundtable came to an end, Cox confessed that he longs to do more comedy and that Jerry Lewis was a huge influence on him. Cox is an engaging person who skillfully weaves a tale. After listening to him speak, I would take a class in whatever he wanted to teach.
A new rule for Halloween should be that you must screen Trick R Treat to honor the holiday and the quality filmmaking that went into its production. Today I will get to interview Michael Dougherty one on one so look for more on this film soon.