'Trick 'R Treat' Director Talks Movie's Premiere, Cult Following

(Originally Published at Huffington Post)

Trick ‘R Treat” is a horror movie that should have become a mainstream success. It stars recognizable actors, such as Anna Paquin, has a high production value, provides scares without being overly gory, has become well received by both audiences and critics, and establishes a recognizable mascot in little boy/thing trick-or-treater “Sam.”

The film features a series of connected stories set on Halloween Night, and which all play on supernatural powers and classic urban legends. A group of children who met their end in a school bus haunt the town on October 31; a virgin attacked by a vampire may not be as helpless as she appears; and the spirit of Halloween enforces the rules of the holiday in the form of Sam, a creepy little kid with a burlap sack on his head.

Yet, aside from a handful of screenings, the anthology film sat on a shelf for three years after writer/director Michael Dougherty completed it until its DVD/Blu-ray release in 2009. But like a good horror movie monster can’t be killed, “Trick ‘R Treat” has lived on to become a mainstream, yet cultish, modern-day classic through strong home entertainment sales and 24-hour Halloween marathons on horror network FEARnet.

But “Trick ‘R Treat” is about to enjoy a little vindication of sorts for never receiving its initial theatrical release. Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures, which distributed the DVD/Blu-ray, announced yesterday the film will have a theatrical screening at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on October 28. The screening will be followed by a panel featuring Dougherty and some members of the cast that included Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker and Leslie Bibb.

In the following interview, Dougherty – who previously worked on scripts for “X-Men 2” and “Superman Returns” -- talks about his own vindication, about the life of “Trick R Treat” and his lovable creature creation, the Halloween mascot Sam.

Q: Has the success of “Trick ‘R Treat” on home entertainment, and now this theatrical premiere, provided you with some vindication after the movie was left on the shelf for so long?
A: Uh…yes! It’s hard not to. At the same time, I’ve been feeling that in varying degrees over the last four years. The initial DVD release was a huge milestone, just to get the movie off of Warner Brothers’ shelf. Then, what I’ve enjoyed over the last four years, has been watching it grow. It just keeps getting bigger.

Q: I’ve heard different stories, but why was the movie delayed, according to you?
A: To me, it was a perfect storm of factors. It is an odd bird. It is a horror comedy anthology, which is something that hadn’t been attempted in a long time, not since the “Creepshow” days. Then we killed 14 kids [in the movie], so there was that factor! I think, in a lot of ways, it was an independent horror film that snuck in the studio to get made. But at the end of the day, the studio looked at it, said it was weird, didn’t know what to do with it. We are talking about the studio that has Harry Potter and Batman, and they’re great, but it was an odd bird. They said maybe it needs time to find its audience, which is what happened and I’m actually grateful for the path it took.

Q: Looking back, would you change anything with how “Trick R Treat” evolved?
A: I wouldn’t change a thing. As painful as it was in certain parts of the process, especially when it was a big unknown and it felt like no one had faith in the film. This path, I think, let the movie find its trueaudience. When most movie come out, they have a big marketing machine behind them, a lot of money. When your character is plastered on Pepsi cans, and a lot of cross-platform marketing mumbo-jumbo, you don’t know if a person genuinely loves your movie or because they saw commercials for it during “The Daily Show.” When someone says they saw my movie and loved it, I know it’s because it was through word of mouth and someone grabbed them and said, “you should check this out.” It feels more pure and, to me, makes the movie cooler. It is that kind of underground movie passed around between people, not one relied on some giant machine to shove it down people’s throats.

Q: What about “Trick R Treat” do fans connect to?
A: People love Sam, obviously. He has become a mascot for the film, but I think there’s a nostalgia factor. It makes them feel like a kid again, which is important for me when you make a movie. They like its mix of humor and horror, which is tricky and hard to do. Everyone seems to gravitate towards a different reason and story.

Q: How did the idea of Sam come about?
A: I always was kind of annoyed that Halloween didn’t have a central icon in the same way Christmas and Easter do. They all get their cool, cute mythical creature. I thought Halloween needed one. We didn’t have one everyone rallied around, so I thought, “why not create one and dip into the mythology of Halloween?” Even Michael Myers, who is a slasher that strikes at Halloween, doesn’t really embody what Halloween is about. I wanted something creepy and sinister, but oddly cute and appealing because that’s what Halloween is.

Q: How have the FEARnet marathon contributed to the longevity of the movie?
A: They’ve been huge supporters of the movie and that’s what I really appreciate the most. The fans, whether it’s man on the street or the geek blogger community, really swooped in and rallied around the movie and said, “There’s something here.” That has let the movie spread really further. Had it come out in 2004 or 2005, when the Internet didn’t have the same kind of presence, I don’t know if it would have done as well. The combined efforts of FEARnet and the geek community really kept the movie going.

Q: Have you stayed in touch with the actors that were in the film, and have they remained supportive of “Trick ‘R Treat” throughout the years?
A: I stay in touch with most of the actors. Anna Paquin and I go back to “X-Men 2” – which is 100 years now, geez. What’s interesting is they all report back at different points and having the same kind of similar experience I am where they go to conventions and do signings, and they tell me people were giving them “Trick ‘R Treat” posters to sign. Anna will say people will bring up “Trick ‘R Treat” just as much as “True Blood.” Brian Cox was signing last week and they screened “Manhunter” with “Trick ‘R Treat.” There’s a natural, weird following that built and the actors have experienced that too.

Q: What are you most looking forward to for the screening?
A: I’m excited. We’re going to reunite some members of the cast and do a Q&A afterwards. We’re streaming it live over Facebook on Legendary’s page so we’ll be introducing it to a whole new audience for free. Legendary has always been a big supportive of the movie and this is a great excuse to have a nice party – and the screening happens to fall on my birthday. It’s just a perfect alignment of all my favorite things.

Q: Are there plans for a sequel?
A: Not at the moment. I’m really just trying to focus on the screening, and still, in a lot of ways, trying to let the first one sink in. It would be neat, I wouldn’t be against it.