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Trick 'r Treat
by yo go re

For two years now, audiences have been waiting for the release of Trick 'r Treat, a horror film written and directed by Michael Dougherty, one of the guys who helped write the script for Bryan Singer's X2 (and also Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, but let's focus on the positive). It was originally due to be released in October of 2007, but then it got pushed back. October 2008 has come and gone, obviously, and now everyone has their fingers crossed for a 2009 release. But meanwhile, NECA has gone ahead and released the semi-star of the film, tiny little Sam.

One night of the year, when jack o'lanterns burn bright and monsters roam the streets, we open our doors to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, but what most of us never realize is that these costumed children aren't always what they seem. Wandering amongst them is Sam, the ancient spirit of Halloween and enforcer of the holiday's many traditions. Dressed in orange footy pajamas and ragged burlap mask, Sam appears to be nothing more than another kid in costume, but lurking underneath that simple disguise is something else entirely. Something deadly. So when you hear a knock at your door next Halloween, you better be wearing a mask and you better have a bowl full of treats, or you could be in for one hell of a trick.

Damn, all that text looks really long on the back of the package. Like, Monev the Gale long. Seriously, it takes up about a third of the space, and that's not even counting the "Rules of Halloween" that are also printed back there (see below). But when we copy it, it's barely any longer than the average Marvel Legends or DC Universe bio. The benefits of choosing a big font, I suppose. Thumbs up to Nicole Falk's packaging design, for making sure the yellow text was large and legible on the dark brown background.

Trick 'r Treat comprises four intricately interwoven stories, sort of a "Pulp Fiction meets Tales from the Crypt," and Sam ties them all together. He's not really the villain of the piece, though; more of an anti-hero. He doles out the harshness, but not in the style of a typical movie slasher: he's not chasing stupid horny teenagers, he's exacting punishment for specific offenses. So don't mess up, and you won't have anything to worry about.

Sam was played in the film by Quinn Lord - an actual 8-year-old boy - so although he's sculpted in a 7" scale, he stands only 5½" tall. The figure was sculpted by Sam Lute, and looks really nice. His footy pajamas are slightly baggy, draping down from his shoulders and bunching near the ankles. The patches are stitched on haphazardly, and he even has a little butt-flap. Aww! His fingerless gloves are burlap, just like his hood. Articulation isn't great, with just a balljointed neck, swivel right elbow, balljoints at the left shoulder and elbow, and wrists that are either really limited balljoints, or really wobbly swivels. Take your pick.

Sam's biggest feature is his head - he wears a burlap bag over his huge, globular head, with a seam down the center, a wide, stitched smile and a rope tied loosely around his neck to hold the sack in place. He has wide-set black button eyes, and overall looks like a sinister cousin of Sackboy. The sculpt on the final product is slightly different than the prototype: look at the photo on the back of the package, and you'll notice that the warp and weft of the fabric have been slightly tilted, rather than running parallel (and perpendicular) to the seam.

The head pops off, and can be replaced by an unmasked version. Sam's real head looks like a cross between a skull and an unripened pumpkin. It's yellowish brown, with a gourdy texture and triangular crimson cutouts for his eyes and nose. The demonic look (coupled with the thing about him being the Spirit of Halloween) makes it seem as though Sam is supposed to be an incarnation of Samhain, the Celtic god of the dead. Of course, that's a misconception: "Samhain" was the name
The Rules of Halloween:

1. Wear a costume.
2. Hand out treats.
3. Never blow out a jack o' lantern.
4. And ALWAYS check your candy.

of a month, not a god, and it's not pronounced "sam hane," like you think it is; the M would be silent, so it's actually said closer to "sawin'." Thanks again, conservative pundits. Of course, all that's just conjecture on our part, and it's possible Sam's name is just a nod to the popular assumptions, not a continuation of them. Let's hope.

Sam's accessories were handled by Chris Gawyrch, and he gets a nice assortment. He has a base featuring a bit of gravel road, covered with dozens of twigs and fallen leaves, all intricately sculpted and painted brown. He's dragging a (bloody) burlap sack, and judging by the shapes inside it, it's not filled with candy. Want a hint? Go watch Dougherty's 1996 animated short film Season's Greetings. Can't say for sure it's the same thing, but you never know. Given what little we know of the plot so far, it seems likely.

That's not to say Sam doesn't have any candy, however: there's a chocolate bar clutched in his left hand and... why, look at that! Some heartless soul has slipped a razorblade into the candy. Tsk tsk. There's going to be trouble now! Sam's also got a translucent orange lollipop with a jack o'lantern face on it, and it seems he's already taken a bite. Better be careful, kid - the edges of lollipops can be sharp, and you wouldn't want to cut yourself. Or anyone else.

Finally, the set includes two jack o'lanterns. One's nice and normal, the other is lacking its lid - its eyes are X's instead of the usual triangles seen on the other pumpkin. Oh, and a huge plume of fire is jetting out the top. That's taken directly from a scene in the film; it's not nice to fool Mother Nature the ancient spirit of Halloween. Amazingly, the pumpkins are fully detailed both inside and out: if you can get a look at the interior, you'll see the stringy walls of the shell, as well as a bunch of loose seeds. There's even an extinguished candle hiding down inside the normal one. These are some great pieces, and really add to the scene.

If the early reviews are anything to go by, Trick 'r Treat is going to be a pretty big movie. It may not rake in the dough like, say, another by-the-numbers Saw sequel, but with an interesting, old-school horror feel and clever storytelling, it may well become a cult classic. How cool will all your friends think you are, then, when you're displaying the Sam figure months before the movie opens? Imagine if you were the first to talk about Donnie Darko or Shaun of the Dead; you can have that opportunity right now, with Sam and Trick 'r Treat.

-- 01/15/09

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