Beyond Fest closes with special Livestreamed screening of “TRICK ‘R TREAT”; EXCL CommentsFearful Features,Movies/TV,News Samuel Zimmerman
The successor to the seasonal cinematic throne is clear, and has been since a groundswell of buzz and support screenings (one by FANGORIA at the no-longer-with-us Pioneer Theater in the East Village) and its eventual immensely inadequate DVD release in October of 2009 saw TRICK ‘R TREAT blow audiences away. Steadily amassing a cult of fans and given a 24-hour annual Halloween marathon on FEARNet, the adoration of Michael Dougherty’s fantastic anthology has culminated in its producers at Legendary giving it the blowout it deserves. TRICK ‘R TREAT will close the currently running Beyond Fest in Los Angeles on Monday, October 28 with a cast and crew panel and screening at the Egyptian Theater, with both the film and Q&A livestreamed over Facebook. Writer/director Michael Dougherty spoke with FANGORIA about the enduring picture and the upcoming event…
FANGORIA: When the film got a much lesser release than it deserved, did you think it would find its audience like it has?
MIKE DOUGHERTY: I always wanted it to and I think deep down I always knew it would, because by the time the decision was made for it to go to DVD, we had already had a decent amount of screenings where I saw the feedback that we were getting. The first public screening we did was with Harry Knowles, of Ain’t It Cool News, down in Austin. Even from that, there were dozens of reviews that came out that said, “Hey, this movie’s actually pretty good.” And then we continued to do screenings. So, I just knew that there was something special brewing. So, while the DVD decision was kind of frustrating, I was still optimistic. I felt something bigger was on the verge of happening. I just had no idea how long and how far it was going to go. I literally approved, I think the fifth or sixth Sam action figure last week. Then, you have FEARNet does the 24-hour marathon. Last month, Legendary said, “Hey, we want to have a big screening at the Egyptian with you and the cast & crew and we’re going to livestream the thing over Facebook.” I just kind of feel like a proud parent who’s watching his kid—whether you want to call the kid the movie itself, or Sam—just go out into the world and do okay.
FANG: I imagine at that time you were so close to it, and maybe still are, but in the years after have you looked back and picked a favorite story in the film?
DOUGHERTY: You know how like when you get a bag full of Halloween candy, it’s hard to pick out your favorite. You got your Butterfingers, your Snickers and oh look, there’s the dark Hershey’s chocolate bar. It’s hard to pick, because I love them all for different reasons. Obviously, Anna Paquin’s story, it’s like, “I love werewolves.” So, getting to direct a werewolf transformation sequence where women are tearing off their skin— that has its perks. By the way, I’m going to throw a short bus over a cliff [laughs]. Every single story has something in it that I love. That said, I would definitely say as far as what I was directing, any time Sam was on screen or on set I was a really happy kid. There’s just something about the character that I just love to death.
FANG: People really attach to Sam. Why?
DOUGHERTY: I think because he’s user friendly [laughs]. He kind of embodies both sides of the holiday, because for me, the holiday is meant to be fun and scary. It’s cute and creepy. It’s not meant to be completely one or the other. I’m not a fan of horror films that are just out to make you repulsed and grossed out and uncomfortable. For me, the best horror films, or films in general, have sort of a playful, mischievous, fun side to them. I think Sam fits the bill because he’s not like Michael Myers, who’s just flat out terrifying. Sam looks like the kind of guy that you’d go to a Halloween party with and have a good time with, you know? He captures sort of the innocence and mischief of the holiday.
FANG: Have you ever dressed up as Sam for Halloween?
DOUGHERTY: [Laughs] No! But what’s neat is thanks to talk and text messaging, as we get closer to the holiday, I start getting bombarded with text messages or Facebook or Twitter mentions of people showing me their Sam costumes.
FANG: Have you seen a good amount of costumes from the film aside from Sam?
DOUGHERTY: Yea, there’s a lot of Lauries— a lot of people dressed up as Anna Paquin’s Red Riding Hood. I’ve seen people dressed up as Dylan Baker’s character, school bus kids, a few of those. It’s neat. It’s like you make something and you throw it out in the world and you see how the world then throws it back at you. That’s a very special feeling.
FANG: Is there ever a feeling of maybe the film doesn’t belong to you as much?
DOUGHERTY: It’s just pure joy. I love that. I think that’s part of the art, seeing how people interpret it, embrace it whether it’s fan fiction or thousands and thousands of drawings of Sam on Deviant Art. Facebook pages. People making their own short films. That, to me, is the definition of success. I will take that over a gold plated lead statue any day. That says that your movie has truly sunken into the public consciousness. Chances are the characters are going to outlive me. There’s plenty of big movies that make boat loads of money or win Oscars, whatever the hell else, that people don’t give a rat’s ass about a year later. But you’re told that year, “Oh this is the important movie. This is the one.” People get dressed up and they accept their awards. Again, they just fade away and you never watch them again. This little movie, because of its fans, people pluck it off the shelf every October. They watch it on TV, they show it to their friends. There’s nothing like that. I will take that path and that sort of fandom over any other sort of measurement of success any day.
FANG: Now I’m curious, have you read any awesome TRICK ‘R TREAT fan fiction?
DOUGHERTY: I haven’t, a) for time and b) for legal reasons. Maybe I’ll save them up for retirement.
DOUGHERTY: The funny thing is I’ve always felt a certain amount of responsibility in keeping it alive in years past. This is probably the first year I’m sitting back and letting the machine run on its own, happily. Legendary is running the Facebook page and the Twitter feed, and FEARNet is doing the 24-hour marathon. It’s nice to have the support from Legendary and from FEARNet as full-fledged partners. The amount of enthusiasm and energy and time that Legendary is pouring into the title this year is so wonderful. They’ve always been big supporters of the movie, they’ve always believed in it from the very beginning, but now they have the infrastructure and resources to continue to build its audience. Obviously, we get to make those short films and promos featuring Sam over the last couple of years which were a blast. But, I think the screening will be a new milestone. It will be a chance for people who haven’t seen the film to watch it for free on Facebook, through Legendary’s Facebook page. You could watch it and then watch the Q&A from the comfort of your own living room, if you wanted to. I don’t think a lot of fans, whether they’re old fans or new, have had the experience of watching a Q&A with the cast and crew.
FANG: Most people haven’t, are you excited to reunite the cast and get people discussing it in hindsight.
DOUGHERTY: I am! Because I think the cast has had a very similar experience where they were puzzled that it didn’t have the release it deserved. They’ve always believed in it. Dylan Baker, Brian [Cox], Anna, they’ve always made an effort to come to one of the screenings because they’ve always believed in the movie. Now, when they’re bombarded for autographs and whatnot, they’re having TRICK ‘R TREAT paraphernalia shoved in front of their faces just as much as TRUE BLOOD. Or, for instance, last week Brian Cox did a screening and a signing in the UK where they did a double feature of MANHUNTER and TRICK ‘R TREAT—a bizarre, but amazing combination. The posters they printed up had him as Hannibal Lecter and him as Mr. Kreeg side by side. I was so flattered by that. They’re realizing that it’s becoming something to, so to get everybody back together again to reminisce, it’ll be really special.
FANG: You’re involved with CREEPY & EERIE, are you still pushing forward?
DOUGHERTY: Yea, actually, it’s me and Chris Columbus and I have a partner named Zach Shields who has a really cool band called Dead Man’s Bones. CREEPY & EERIE were hallmarks of my childhood and obviously were an inspiration for TRICK ‘R TREAT. They had that sort of ironic, dark mix of horror and humor. So, to be able to re-introduce that title to a new generation through movies or potentially a TV series will be a lot of fun. I think we’re close to reveal. Fingers crossed, I don’t want to jinx it.