A pre-Halloween chat with "Trick 'r' Treat" director Michael Dougherty

Last night before I visited one of the scariest attractions in Los Angeles (the 405 fwy at rush hour), I was able to have a little chit chat with writer/director Michael Dougherty (Superman Returns, Trick ‘r’ Treat).

Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Creepy: So it’s been almost 3 years since the film debut of Trick R Treat (and one year since its official release on DVD), but it’s been almost a decade in the works.

MD: It was one of those projects that’s been in development hell for a long time, so it was very off and on, off and on. I first wrote the script for Trick ‘r’ Treat in 2001. Shortly after I created the cartoon short which inspired the film (Season’s Greetings) . Then we rolled cameras in 2006, so about five years in development.

Creepy: I have to admit, Trick ‘r’ Treat was probably the only coffee table book of a feature film that I’ve ever purchased, the artwork and the interaction the book provided was almost as good as the film.

MD: Thank you very much.  Yeah, our goal was to create as many collectibles as possible to coincide with the film. Sam dolls (based on the main character), masks, books, etc. When we first thought of this, we thought of everything – like what would the toys be like? You know we were all kinda raised on Star Wars, and at least for me, movies were just MORE then movies. So we slowly went down a checklist of all those things we wanted to create.

Creepy: Trick ‘r’ Treat is a series of different stories that cleverly tie together at the end of the film. It’s is set up so that it could possibly continue forever, any word on a possible sequel?

MD: Well, when creating something like this a sequel is always on the back of my mind. But it’s never the goal. I thought of every possibility for the film and a potential franchise, like how would it be if we released a new one every year, or every other year with the possibility of handing it off to other directors to play with because there are so many talented filmmaker friends that would do amazing in this arena. But you know, I’m perfectly content with it just being the one movie. Because you have to admit, if you see a film sequel (especially a horror film), they’re not ever as good. But I am open to the idea of possibly releasing an annual hard bound book of short horror stories packaged together in the vain of Trick ‘r’ Treat.

CREEPY: So you mention being content with just this one Trick ‘r’ Treat, did you feel a huge weight lifted when it was actually released?

MD: YEAH, it was like finally giving birth (laughs). It was like the protracted labor ever. Because we kept trying to get it out there, and it just kept getting held back. So it was great when it was released. This year has also been great too. This year I really watched people embrace it again. That was the BIG test, whether or not there was a second spike in interest in the film. Then October rolls around, and bam the spotlight is back on the film again. It’s just so neat to see the film become it’s own thing. So I feel like a very proud parent sometime.

CREEPY: So this brings us to a Double Feature (TRICK R TREAT/HALLOWEEN 3) screening you are holding tonight (Oct 29, 2010)  and tomorrow at the New Beverly Cinema in LA.

MD: It’s hugely exciting. I love the New Beverly, I love watching movies there and you kinda feel honored to be a part of it.

CREEPY: Growing up, you probably never imagined when Halloween 3 came out that about 20 years later you’d be showing your own film alongside it in a double feature did you?

MD: (laughs) No, yeah -I remember seeing ads as a kid for Halloween 3 and how much they terrified me. I remember driving past the Drive-Thru’s  as a kid and seeing the marquee’s for the film.  So it’s become an amazing accomplishment for me.

CREEPY: So on a side note, we have so many haunted attractions in Los Angeles, one of them being Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood.

MD: Yeah, I went last weekend. It was a blast! It’s just neat to enter the world of those horror movies.

CREEPY: I am not sure if your aware or not, but the Creative Director ( John Murdy ) of Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood has a Twitter page to speak with fans directly. He’s been asking fans over the past year what movie properties would they like to see the park bring to life as a haunted house or scare zone, and many responded with Trick ‘r’ Treat. It captures the entire essence of Halloween, and it’s something that would really impress guests. I believe an entire theme park could be created out of Trick ‘r’ Treat.

MD: Yeah, I could totally see a version where you enter a maze and go through the rock quarry and then all of the sudden your in a forest full of werewolves, and then your running from child zombies, and then finally ending up in Old Man Kreeg’s house and face Sam – It would be such a blast! I just think the upside on a Trick ‘r’ Treat maze at Halloween Horror Nights you could introduce humor into the maze. I mean I find it hilarious some of the stuff they do, and I’m sure they chuckle at it too. But they definitely go more ‘shock value’, really intense scares and it would just be really neat to have one that gave off more of a funhouse atmosphere. Like I can imagine a walkway where you walk through burlap sacks and just hear Sam’s cat meowing, it would be so fun.

CREEPY: Universal has said that they’ve considered using Trick ‘r’ Treat but they don’t feel it’s become something that would appeal to the masses due to it’s limited release.

MD: The upside of it all, is that even if you don’t know what the movie Trick ‘r’ Treat is, a maze with that tittle would provoke such imagery that would be interesting enough and I’m sure everyone would wanna check it out. I’ve never really been one to care to the masses, like the one Simpson’s episode where Homer orders his dream car and when he sees it in person its a monstrosity. If all your doing is catering to the masses you’re not really being innovative. The real goal with this film is longevity and creating something timeless, which is what I feel we’ve accomplished. Because if it’s sitting in the Rite-Aid discount bin a year after it’s release then what’s the point of all our hard work? To make a film you can re-visit is most flattering. Like with the screenings at the Hollywood Cemetery and the New Beverly, to walk into a theater and watch a movie almost twenty years later and the showing is sold out, THAT’S what matters. I think were off to a good start.

CREEPY: So the eternal question, what really held back the release of this film. Was it the killing the kids that scared away Warner Brothers?

MD: I mean, that might have been a part of it. But the film was just such an odd mix of horror and comedy that it didn’t fit in with what they thought was formulaic of what people wanted to see at the time.

CREEPY: Back to your fan base, you’ve become really one-on-one with screenings and participating in as many TRT events as possible.

MD: Well I love the movie! It really comes down to that. I love that people really feel the same way about it. I am not the kind of guy who just finishes a project and just let’s it go. Not only that, but it’s combined with the love of the Holiday too, so it’s my holiday greeting card to everybody.

CREEPY: Maybe one day we will see midnight screening’s of Trick ‘r’ Treat like we do with Rocky Horror, minus the musical numbers of course.

MD: Definitely. It would be completely proving that good films can make it out there. Most films from the 70s, for example Halloween never started off great and as they built a fan base, eventually prevailed and became game changers in the genre.

CREEPY: Any cool traditions growing up?

MD: You know, very basic. Handing out candy, Trick R Treating, carving pumpkins, coming home and checking the candy and then handing it back out to the kids who stayed out later.

CREEPY: Any traditions with the film? Cast get-together’s at your place to watch the film every October?

MD: (laughs) No, I still keep in touch with a lot of them, I do hang out with quite a few of them. So not yet, but maybe when were all 70 we will have some sort of reunion.

CREEPY: So finally horror today. You a fan of building franchise that is Paranormal Activity? You think were progressing?

MD: I do, I try and look at a positive outlook on the genre and that film especially, because it is an original idea. I love that there’s something new out there, I am very happy that it is not formulaic and it’s entirely fresh and original. It’s not five teens in the woods getting killed off one by one, it’s truly a different kind of story in a different story telling format. I am also very happy with the return to comedy based horror films like Zombieland and Drag Me to Hell, which were great eye openers to the industry. So well see where it all goes, but I am very optimistic.

Make sure you catch a screening of Trick R Treat this weekend at the New Beverly Cinema! Fri: 7:30; Sat: 4:00 & 7:30pm shown alongside Halloween 3.