As noted, it’s hard to say anything meaningful about a year so recently passed, but it’s safe to say that not many historians will view 2009 as one of the world’s great years. Wars and rumors of war; the continuing unraveling of national and international economies; earthquakes and hurricanes. Michael Jackson died, but shallow celebrity culture lived on!
In horror films, the year was not as rich as 2008, but then few years are. Torture porn lurched forward on a hundred legs with the dreadful The Human Centipede (First Sequence), which reduced the unspeakable to ironic posturing. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist gave us a front row seat at a personal Gnostic apocalypse that may have done the best job of capturing the world’s mood in this dark year, but ultimately felt unsatisfying as a narrative. Bad sequels (Cabin Fever 2) and stupid re-makes (Friday the 13th and The Haunting) captured the quality of most of the year’s offerings. Zombieland was hugely popular, but we found it un-engaging and painfully self-conscious. Close contenders for favorite of the year included Pontypool (which I inadvertently listed in 2008) and Wake Wood, a scary, low-key tale from Hammer.
But our pick is a brilliant little gem that was released, almost accidentally, in 2009. Trick ‘r Treat, written and directed by Michael Dougherty, is well on its way to becoming a holiday classic! A brilliantly woven web of stories, Trick r’ Treat reminds us that humor and horror can still be effectively combined, if the humor is smart. Trick ‘r Treat was intended for release at Halloween in 2007 but Warner’s nerve apparently failed and the movie teetered on the brink of oblivion before finally finding a DTV release in 2009. In the mean time, it had started to pick up a buzz from a few screenings at festivals and underground digital “distribution” and has gained considerably more of a reputation since its release. Any lover of Halloween should see Trick ‘r Treat.
We like this film not only for its sense of humor and clever structure, but for its playful use of Halloween iconography and numerous, often subtle references to horror comics, films, and folk tales. Sometimes compared to John Carpenter’s original Halloween, Trick ‘r Treat is a far more loving and complete tribute to the weird holiday that, above all else, celebrates the power of imagination.
It was easily our favorite horror film from 2009, even if it should have been released in 2007!