Review – Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead
Art by Various
Review by Patrick Brennan
If you’re a horror fan, chances are Halloween is your Christmas. You relish the moment you finally get to flip your calendar over to the page marked October and try to pack in as many spooky good times as you can before that terrible morning when you have to turn the page to November.
For many of us, our love of the Halloween season comes from the nostalgia it brings. You see costumed kids walking down your street or one of your old favorite television specials pops on the tube and suddenly, like a stiff autumn breeze sending dead leaves tumbling inside after blowing open your front door, you’re transported back to a time in your life when you still believed deep down in your bones that monsters might be real and that there could actually be magic in the world.
Trick ‘r Teat, the anthology film by Michael Dougherty that tells the intertwining tales of several residents of a sleepy small town and the fates they meet on Halloween night, is considered by many to be essential holiday viewing since its release in 2007. It’s definitely an impressive film on a technical level, showcasing a deftness in story plotting and pace that put it head and shoulders above other anthology of films of its kind, but it’s Trick ‘r Treat’s heart that made it an instant classic. From start to finish the movie feels like a love-letter to the holiday, understanding perfectly all the reasons (spooky and otherwise) why the night means so much to so many.
A sequel has been in a works for a while now and, if you’re anything like me, you’re tearing your hair out in anticipation. Sadly there’s still no word about when that’ll be dropping but fear not because Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead, an anthology comic meant to set the stage for the film series’ second installment, is here to take some of the edge off.
In the comic’s opening scene, we find a young girl sitting on the porch with her jack-o-lantern-carving grandfather. Turns out the little lady is not thrilled that it’s Halloween night, finding all its spooks and monsters too frightening. With a twinkle in his eye, her grandfather proceeds to tell her stories of Halloween magic and the many forms it’s taken over the years.
The first tale, titled “Seed,” is a tragic love story set in Ireland in the 1600’s, and features an ending that’s equal parts chilling and touching. “Corn Maiden” follows a group of pioneers in the Old West who perform a terrible act in order to acquire a portion of land, and suffer the horrifying consequences as a result. A noir tale in the style of the pulp magazines of yesteryear, “Echoes” finds an old gumshoe hot on the trail of a serial killer in 1950’s Los Angeles. Days of the Dead’s finale, “Monster Mash” is a story about two boys and the test their friendship faces as monsters descend upon their quiet town one Halloween night.
Days of the Dead is a bit of a mixed bag. The quality of the anthology’s four stories fluctuates noticeably, and while overall it’s a strong collection, it doesn’t reach the level of storytelling seen in the original movie. Which maybe is an unreasonable expectation to begin with considering both how high the bar was raised by the movie and the fact that this is a completely different storytelling medium.
The strongest entry is the collection’s finale, “Monster Mash.” It’s bitter-sweet examination of friendship and loss amongst the backdrop of one very spooky Halloween night reads like a tribute to Ray Bradbury and his seminal classic Something Wicked This Way Comes. In terms of tone, it’s the story that feels most at home in the world created by the original movie, and ends the anthology on an emotional high note.
“Seed” and “Corn Maiden” are both entertaining installments, benefiting from fantastic artwork (fans of the series Saga will be thrilled to find Fiona Staples lending her talents to “Seed”) and narratives that are equal parts tragic and frightening. The two tales are certainly strong in their own right, but their respective timelines make them feel a bit jarring and out of place if you’re coming directly from watching the original movie, which took place in the present day for the most part.
Finally, while its noir-meets-horror concept is definitely promising, “Echoes” suffers from some clunky dialogue and a few confusing narrative choices. It’s redeemed a little by Stuart Sayger’s classic pulp-style artwork which gives the entry a murky, nightmarish look that’ll definitely please the eyeballs, but it’s still the collection’s low point.
Though it may feel uneven at times, Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead is a worthwhile read for fans of the film and worshipers of all things Halloween. A couple of the chapters may feel a tad out of place in the world created by the film but they still fit the tone of the holiday well enough to make the collection one that you’ll probably find yourself revisiting again when Halloween rolls along next year.