TRICK ‘R TREATing with Michael Dougherty

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Originally published at on October 25, 2009

At the 2009 Big Apple Comic Con, horror movie enthusiasts were treated with the screening of writer/director Michael Dougherty’s anthology film, TRICK R TREAT. After the screening, the filmmaker answered numerous questions from the audience.

The history of Sam, the film’s mysterious protagonist wearing a burlap pumpkin mask, began as a hand-drawn character Dougherty made himself. Sam was then brought to life in his animated short film, SEASON’S GREETINGS. After placing the same individual in other stories, Dougherty finally established Sam in his feature film, which would serve as a tribute to the 80’s horror movies that mixed comedy and scares.

An inquisitive audience member asked Dougherty why the film was in development hell for so long. He responded by explaining that his work was considered a weird movie for the studio. The movie did test well with viewers in screenings, but it was not enough to build the studio’s confidence. The studio had major issues with the death scenes of children, including the group of mentally challenged.

Though the DVD has been selling well and the Sam persona has been merchandized into toys, Dougherty has mixed feelings over a sequel. If there was a possibility, he would want Sam to return in an animated segment with the story set in the 1800s. He also realizes movies tend to get worse with each sequel and characters become less scary as too much back-story is built up. Right now he prefers to explore Sam’s origins through comic books.      

Dougherty enjoyed every minute of his directing experience. He felt he was a kid again but the crayons are bigger and more expensive. During the casting process, he was able to acquire Anna Paquin and Brian Cox in his movie because he worked with them on X2: X-MEN UNITED.  All he needed to do was make a few phone calls. A letter and some drawings of Sam were sent to actor Dylan Baker before an agreement was made. The screenplay went through many different stages: from the page, during shooting, and finally when editing. At first, each story continued after the other. In the editing room, he decided to intercut the four storylines. For awhile he was unsure whether the technique would work with moviegoers but each positive screening proved him wrong. 

He wrote about his obsession about the Halloween holiday because he believes it is the best time of the year. The holiday can be a combination of cute, creepy, and funny; which is why Sam is a mascot character for Halloween since he can embody everything about it. You want to hug Sam but when you do, he’ll slash you out.  

At the end of the panel, Director Michael Dougherty threw back a question at the audience and asked them if they were on facebook or twitter. After a majority raised their hands, he encouraged people to use their social networking sites to tell others to see this movie. TRICK R TREAT never had a big marketing campaign, which is why people need to tell the studio what kind of movies they want to see through their voices and dollars.