TRICK ‘R TREAT Graphic Novel Review.

Posted by John Gholson - October 6th 2009 @ 10:41 am

Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Mike Huddleston, Grant Bond, Christopher Gugliotti, Fiona Staples

If you really want to experience the differences in storytelling between comics and film, comic book movie adaptations are always a great place to start.  The panels serve as a series of “greatest hits” moments from the film, the writers and artists thanklessly reducing thrilling cinematic action sequences into a static panel or two, and swapping emotional character beats for only the choicest one-liners.  It’s got to be a tough job.  DC/Wildstorm does their best effort with TRICK ‘R TREAT, the comic adaptation of Michael Dougherty’s straight-to-video anthology love letter to Halloween.  Sporadic screenings and good word of mouth have helped TRICK ‘R TREAT gain a cult audience in advance of its official release, and I think those that are already huge fans of the film will be interested in seeing how the story unfolds in a comic book format.

There are four different artists at work here, working under Marc Andreyko’s writing, which is faithful to Dougherty’s script, but uninspired.  Mike Huddleston (Gen 13, Friday the 13th:  Badland)  tackles the first quarter of the book, which includes two major scenes from the film–the opening vignette wherein a young couple return home from a long night of partying, and the film’s most conceptually disturbing story, which introduces sinister school principal Mr. Wilkins.  Huddleston has a straight-forward, pleasing comic art style that’s a touch on the cartoony side, but he compliments it here with heavy blacks and dramatic silhouettes.  Grant Bond (Archibald Saves Christmas, Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors) takes on the story of a Halloween trick gone horribly wrong.  A group of kids decide to scare an idiot savant with the local legend of a school bus full of mentally disturbed children that fell to their watery grave in a rock quarry one Halloween night.  It was my favorite segment of the film, and Bond’s pastel-colored visuals give the tale a storybook quality that feels appropriate.

I wasn’t so pleased with the weird artwork of Christopher Gugliotti (Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  Raising Cain).  He adapts the section of the film featuring Anna Paquin and her girlfriends hunting for boys to bring to their own secret Halloween get-together.  Likenesses are always a trouble-spot in film adaptations, but Gugliotti avoids that issue altogether by barely making his characters look human.  They’re an ugly computer-enhanced mess of bubbly, muddy colors.  The in-panel compositions are often confusing, and the young ladies, who were all smoking hot in the film, have grotesquely wide-set, vacant eyes and gaping Muppet-like mouths.  Gugliotti’s experimental art seems better suited for street graffiti than the pages of a comic book.  Fiona Staples (North 40, The Secret History of the Authority) rounds out the book with the tale of a bitter old man stalked by the film’s unofficial mascot, the pint-sized, pumpkinheaded monster named Sam.  I’m a recent fan of Staples, and I’m happy to report that her work on North 40 was no fluke.  Her jagged edges and moody colors are well-suited for this kind of thing, and I hope one day she finds the right project to make her a break-out star.

If you haven’t seen the movie, you’re going to have a little trouble following the details of the story.  There are moments that simply don’t translate into comic book form, and there are also big moments that won’t make any sense to those unfamiliar with the film.  There’s a scene in the opening of TRICK ‘R TREAT where a young lady notices a masked stranger standing across the street from her as she takes down Halloween decorations from her yard.  It’s the first moment of tension in the film, because it recalls similar scenes in horror movies like HALLOWEEN.  That tension is quickly relieved when we find out that it’s just some kid waiting for his ride.  With his mask on, we realize he probably wasn’t even watching the woman, and the audience gets a minor chuckle at being scared of nothing.

This scene didn’t need to be included in the comic.  It gets three whole panels, it does nothing to further the story, and, because the gag is an entirely cinematic one, it makes no sense on the printed page.  Some of the blame falls on editor Scott Peterson, who I have to assume oversaw this project without a copy of the film.  There’s also little consistency from artist to artist in the way that characters are drawn.  One character without a costume in Huddleston’s section is seen with a costume in Bond’s story (which is made even more noticeable because the stories intersect).  There’s a major twist in Gugliotti’s segment that is ruined, not only by the odd artwork, but by Andreyko not writing the characters any dialogue that would clarify the twist.

They don’t have any of that kind of talk in the film, but the film doesn’t need that sort of exposition.  We can see the twist on the screen, and we understand what’s happening because we recognize the actors involved.  I’m  tiptoeing around specifics so I don’t spoil anything, but the inconsistencies are all over the place.  Staples’ likeness of the unmasked Sam looks absolutely nothing like the character in the film.  It’s not poorly drawn; it’s just obivous she never got a character style sheet and had to go off her own imagination.  The scene where Mr. Kreeg burns a photo is a very significant moment in the film, but here in the comic, it’s treated in a confusing, easily forgettable manner.  Fans of TRICK ‘R TREAT can fill in the rough patches with their memory of the movie, but there’s little narrative reward for the casual reader.

As far as adaptations go, TRICK ‘R TREAT is adequate.  Most of the art captures the film’s energy–a darkly comedic celebration of jack o’lanterns, ghouls, and ghosts.  I don’t envy Andreyko’s task of converting moving pictures into a glossy 96-page graphic novel, but he does a servicable job, despite a noticeable lack of creative finesse.  It would probably make a good gateway comic for younger fans interested in the horror genre, if it weren’t for the R-rated language, but other than that, I can really only recommend it to those that adore Dougherty’s film.

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comments are closed
  1. B
    October 7th, 2009 | 11:38 am | #1

    “I can really only recommend it to those that adore Dougherty’s film.”

    That’s me sold.

  2. joe
    October 14th, 2009 | 8:19 pm | #2

    great book should read trailer park trash to funny also

  3. brooke
    July 20th, 2010 | 8:54 pm | #3

    i love the movie im getting the book soon but i have seen it 5 or 6 times i <3 it

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