Friday, October 17, 2008
Trick 'r Treat
In my last blog, I briefly touched upon the ongoing saga of a little film called Trick 'r Treat. I first heard about this movie in early 2007, when the flick's teaser trailer first debuted (many saw it on the 300 DVD). The film is written and directed by Michael Dougherty (his directoral debut), a screenwriter best known for X-2 and Superman Returns. Upon seeing the trailer, I was instantly stoked...a new horror film centering around the folklore surrounding Halloween! Four stories are played out, each one intersecting with the other (think Pulp Fiction, but in horror movie form). At the center of it all is Sam, the Spirit of Halloween who first made his debut in Dougherty's animated short Season's Greetings (see my previous blog). Sam is a mischievous little spirit who ensures that the rules of Halloween are abided by. Break the rules, and you'll attract his attention!
Needless, to say, the very premise of this film was my cuppa hemlock! It had been ages since a real, original horror film had been set in the Halloween season, and this one looked to deliver the goods. September of 2007 rolled around, and word came down that the execs at Warner Bros. had decided to pull the film from their release schedule, as they were afraid it couldn't compete with horror films like Saw IV that were being issued in the same month. This would be the first sign that the WB suits were mentally challenged.
The second indication of just how incredibly brainless the WB Brass was came shortly thereafter, when they indicated that the movie might see a theatrical release sometime in the spring...possibly March or April! WTF??? Of course, this news was met on the net with about as much enthusiasm as a fart is in church. WB pushed the release date back to October, 2008.
In December of 2007, Dougherty brought the film to Butt-Numb-A-Thon, a marathon of films in Austin, Texas that is presented by Aint It Cool News' founder Harry Knowles. My niece and her husband attended this event, and got to see the finished film. Needless to say, they and everyone else in attendance seemed appropriately impressed. Word of mouth was that the film was one of the most refreshing, entertaining, funny, creepy flicks to hit the horror genre in years. The internet became all a'buzz with talk of how this flick would be THE horror movie of 2008! WB's reaction? They dropped the film from their release schedule altogether!!!
While talk of a DVD release was bandied about for a while, WB never committed to it. Many folks in the internet horror film community speculated that Warner's would release the film rights to be distributed by another company, but they never did. Instead, it sat in the can, with no official release of ANY kind on the horizon. Several special screenings of the film were set up, with Dougherty in attendance to do Q&A. Out of all of these, there has yet to be a negative review of any kind, a rarity for pretty much any film, period. Warner's reaction? Nothin'. Nada. Zip.
Dougherty is reluctant to discuss the reasons for the films delay, and this is probably because he hopes that the folks at WB eventually will release it. I'm sure he doesn't aim to piss any of them off. At one of the Q&A's, there was some discussion as to the reasons for Warner's hesitation to put this movie into the market. While Dougherty apparently didn't come right out and say anything concrete, he did somewhat confirm one person's speculation: Warner Bros. is afraid to release this movie for "marketing" reasons. See, this movie is a horror film, but it has lots of dark comedy infused in it. It also features kids being killed. Not teens, but actual children, and the studios are scared of pissing of those groups that try to police morality for all of us. Rumor has it that the WB execs continuously tried to get Dougherty to alter the film to be a more typical slasher flick with horny teens being hacked to death, but he refused.
Of course, there are plenty of horror films that feature children being killed or put into mortal danger. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few such as: The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, Aliens, Pet Sematary and The Ring. There certainly is a precedent for it, but I think the real problem these suits have with it is that films with this kind of angle tend to skew towards an older audience. A parent watching these films will feel more of a sense of terror at watching a child being placed in danger than a carefree teen would. Teens like to see people their own age being placed in horrifying situations, because it is scarier to them. In other words, it's all about who you relate to. From a marketing perspective, there is this idea in Hollywood that only teens and 20-somethings go see horror movies (a false assumption), and that they wouldn't want to see a movie that wasn't about other teens (also incorrect). Of course, they may miss the point that at least one of these stories centers around teens, but whatever.
The marketing department seems at a loss on how to market this movie. Do they go for the Saw crowd? Do they bill it as a comedy (even though it isn't really)? Do they just throw up their hands and send the thing direct to DVD? Well, I got news for them: This isn't rocket science! The flick is set AT HALLOWEEN and centers around the folklore and traditions of HALLOWEEN! Geez, when do ya think this movie might attract an audience???? Put it out in early October, when folks are just getting into the spirit, and let the flick ride throughout the season. Worried about a DVD release doing well? Save it for the following October! I realize that these marketing guys have gone to school for this and all, but I just don't see how they have trouble with a film that is getting rave reviews and internet buzz. Of course, these are probably the same folks who decided it would be a great idea to release Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow on Thanksgiving weekend, and then wondered why it didn't perform at the box office like they expected.
The only conclusion that I can come to is simply this: Warner Bros has retarded chimpanzees running their movie division. I say "retarded chimpanzees" since I'm pretty sure even a normal chimp could figure out that you should put this flick into theaters in October.
Here's the trailer that first captured my attention. I'm a fan of this film, and I've never even seen it!