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31 Things We Learned from Michael Dougherty’s ‘Trick ‘r Treat’ Commentary

“There’s a lot of dead kids in this movie.”
Trick R Treat Sam Sitting
By  · Published on October 31st, 2018

It’s not often a new Halloween classic rears its head, but Michael Dougherty’s feature debut did just that. Eventually. Its existence as a cult favorite has been a long time coming, and it continues to grow in popularity for one simple reason — it’s fantastic fun. Scream Factory recently released a new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray with new and old special features, and one of the extras is a commentary track.

So yeah, we gave it a listen.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Commentators: Michael Dougherty (writer/director), Breehn Burns (conceptual artist), Simeon Wilkins (storyboard artist), Douglas Pipes (composer)

1. The b&w educational film that opens the movie wasn’t originally there. It was initially part of the trailer, and Dougherty loved it so much he added it to the film.

2. They filmed in Vancouver, Canada, and it was raining most nights meaning many of the shots feature large tarps above the frame. “The rain would stop for us… after sacrificing eight goats.”

3. Some of the shots showing kids running across the street were actually accomplished using little people as the filming was too late at night for actual children to be present.

4. The zombie kids who kill Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) at the end of the movie are seen at 3:29 leaving his house, satiated on his blood.

5. The blood used to show Emma’s (Leslie Bibb) demise beneath the sheet was boiled right before filming so it would steam. “We kept blood warmed throughout the night.”

6. The opening credits includes artwork from various members of the team. “Basically anybody who could draw contributed to the opening title sequence.” There are also childhood photos from various cast and crew too.

7. Many of the extras during the parade sequence are members of Vancouver’s Parade of Lost Souls who do this every Halloween in the streets.

8. The boy peeping at the girls in the changing room is Quinn Lord who also plays little pumpkin-headed Sam.

9. Editing the film is described as “a brutal process” and “hell.” The only sequence that plays straight through is Kreeg’s demise at the end. “I wish we did do a super special edition which allowed you to watch the stories by themselves.”

10. He wrote the script with Dylan Baker in mind having just seen the actor in Happiness (1998). “He’s always fantastic at being charming yet creepy.”

11. The vomit at 15:03 was made of all edible ingredients. “I actually had some,” says Dougherty. “It was quite tasty.”

12. Earlier cuts removed the sequence with Steven (Baker) carrying the kid he just poisoned into his foyer, and it was due to studio pressure. “I fought like a motherfucker to get this back into the movie.” They wanted it cut more for its comedic sensibilities than its content as they briefly toyed with the idea of making this a straightforward horror movie.

13. They couldn’t use any recognizable candy wrappers — “because all of our candy in this film is either poisoned or filled with razor blades” — and had to create their own instead “which was kind of fun because we came up with stuff like Big Fudge Log.”

14. The person in the sack at 21:10 is actually an adult stunt double, but they had a seven-year-old girl voice the whimpering.

15. “Vincent Price is in Trick ‘r Treat.” Well, his film House on Haunted Hill (1959) is playing in the background at 23:00.

16. The school bus story is an homage to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and originally it took place in a cemetery overgrown with pumpkins.

17. The performers under the masks playing the kids on the school bus all have real disabilities or injuries, and they apparently had a blast during the shoot. Their costumes were inspired by a mix of photos from Ralph Meatyard and Diane Arbus capturing real mentally disabled children on Halloween in their own homemade costumes.

Trick R Treat School Bus

18. There were 18 drafts of the script, and one theme that crept in along the way is the idea that each of the stories represents a different stage of a person’s experience with Halloween. “The first story with Dylan Baker and his son is about how you’re introduced to the holiday. The second one with the kids is you and your friends roaming around without parents for the first time. This one with Anna [Paquin] and her friends is Halloween in your 20s when it’s about sex. The final story with Brian Cox is Halloween in your twilight years. It’s the Scrooge of Halloween.”

19. Earlier drafts of the school bus story featured a double reveal in that not only were the undead kids at the quarry a threat but the girl they brought along to prank also turned out to be dead. Dougherty changed it (thankfully) as other recent films had already played the “surprise they’re dead!” card including The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001). Yes, he was working on this script for a long time.

20. The scared reaction Anna Paquin shows at 50:16 is “very, very genuine” as Dougherty literally screamed unexpectedly to frighten her. She didn’t appreciate it at first but soon came around on how it made her performance more authentic.

21. The original cut of the werewolf “orgy” in the forest was cut to Peggy Lee’s “Fever” which they also has playing during filming, but a studio executive rightfully suggested the song should be something with more edge and aggression.

22. The werewolf transformations are done practically (with CG enhancements) because Dougherty knows that fully CG transformations are hot garbage.

Trick R Treat Werewolves

23. Cox wore a wig and prosthetics because “he wanted to look like John Carpenter.” What?!

24. There’s a voice cameo from James Marsden at 59:55 on the TV talking about the history of Halloween candy.

25. Cox added the wheezing to his breathing during his segment leading Dougherty to add it to the flashback sequence of the bus driver crawling out of the lake.

26. The gumball rolling down the stairs is a nod to The Changeling (1980), another horror film shot in Vancouver, and it turned out the cameraman working this sequence also filmed the ball scene in The Changeling. It was one of his first gigs in the business.

27. The fight scene between Sam and Kreeg involved an eight-year-old (!) stunt performer as well as an adult stunt woman.

28. The hold music for the 911 call is a piano cover of John Williams’ “Can You Read My Mind” from Superman: The Movie (1978). “I don’t know how we got the rights to that.”

29. Yes, of course “You gotta be fucking kidding me” is a nod to Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).

30. Dougherty’s still figuring out Sam’s origin (as of this commentary) and says that if they get around to a sequel he’d love to show him being born in a pumpkin patch. “There’s a great Charles Addams painting of a pumpkin patch… and you see hundreds of pumpkins, and you see one… and it’s carving itself.”

31. They shot a scene showing that the dog was actually still alive, but they decided to keep the pup’s implied death.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“Those are midgets!”

“I wanted to turn them into a Where’s Waldo type thing.”

“If I had to go back I would probably add another three to four seconds of the vomit just so it’s uncomfortably long.”

“We went through four cats to get that right.”

“There’s definitely a lot of Goonies DNA in this sequence too, except that it’s ‘what if all the Goonies died?'”

“There’s nothing like making someone scream… and then laughing about it afterward.”

“Your children will love a Sam toy.”

Buy the new Trick ‘r Treat collector’s edition on Blu-ray from Amazon.

Final Thoughts

Look, this movie remains a horror classic. It’s gorgeous, scary, funny, creepy, and just brilliantly constructed. Sure I’m biased thanks to my love of kids getting killed in horror movies, but I’m far from alone in loving it. The commentary is great fun too as they offer some entertaining anecdotes and observations, so after you’ve watched the movie a couple dozen times give it a spin with this track on instead.

Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.