Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.

31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!


Day 13: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

We’re now on the 13th day of Halloween, which is an especially spooky number to be at. You’ve now read 12 pieces on 12 great movies from a variety of fantastic writers. At this point, though, you might have picked up on a trend that I did when I thought about horror movies. Halloween is most definitely the horror movie’s moment in the spotlight during the year, but very few of them have anything to do with the actual holiday. Outside of Halloween, the classics don’t even mention the holiday. This doesn’t make them bad movies or bad horror movies, but I’ve always liked all the other aspects of Halloween as well. I love putting together a costume, going to parties, and enjoying the atmosphere of the day—and of course eating way too much chocolate and candy. It’s those parts of the day plus all the scary ghouls and monsters that makes the day special for me, and it’s why I love Trick ‘r Treat so dang much.

Trick ‘r Treat, directed by Michael Dougherty, is one of my favorite type of horror movies: An anthology. The film follows several different stories all taking place on one Halloween night in a sleepy little Midwestern town. There’s Principal Wilkins (Dylan Baker) and his fanatical devotion to both Halloween and murder, virgin Laurie (Anna Paquin) trying to find a date for the right-of-passage party her friends are are hosting in the woods, the group of school kids reliving an old urban legend from the town’s history, and Kreeg (Brian Cox), a curmudgeonly old man who hates Halloween but hosts a rather rude house guest. Tying all of these stories together is adorable little Sam (played by Quinn Lord), the movie’s de facto mascot and the physical embodiment of Halloween, here to make sure all traditions and rules are adhered to.

What I love about Trick ‘r Treat that is lacking from similar movies like V/H/S is that each section of the movie is connected; with all of the events taking place in one night, it would be hard for them not to be. The stories are not told in chronological order, but there are subtle clues and recurring characters that reward observant movie-goers on first viewing of the film. In particular, the use of Leslie Bibb and Tahmoh Penikett throughout the movie is a clever way to give a frame of reference for how much time has passed. Characters from one section show up in others, and the overarching timeline is complex enough to be interesting without being impenetrable.

While the sections are connected, they also represent very different genres within horror, making Trick ‘r Treat a bit of a variety pack when it comes to defining it. There are supernatural elements, mythological creatures, slasher plots, home invasion, and urban legend themes. Even along the edges, the movie packs in winks and references to what seems to be the entire history of horror. At one point, Bibb’s character Emma is freaked out by a man in a white mask seemingly staring at her from across the street… but it turns out it’s just some teenager waiting for a ride. It’s moments like these that add flavor to the movie. It’s not required to understand every reference to enjoy Trick ‘r Treat, but they’re there for those who love horror.

More than anything, the movie feels like a love letter to the actual holiday, in all of its aspects. The Halloween parade featured throughout the film is enormous, extravagant, and delightful. There are jack-o-lanterns everywhere, costumes and candy feature heavily in the narrative, and it feels like the night of wonder, fun, and scares that we all look forward to experiencing on October 31.

If you want a horror movie that actually cares about what month it is, Trick ‘r Treat is definitely up your alley. Just make sure your costume is on, your candy is checked, and your jack-o-lanterns stay lit. Sam might be cute, but he’s always watching and he doesn’t take kindly to rule breakers.