Trick ‘r Treat Was Almost Directed By John Carpenter And George Romero

trick 'r' treat

Filmmaker Michael Dougherty has turned heads and raised eyebrows with his two cult classics: Krampus and Trick ‘r Treat.

The first is a festive-themed horror flick that preys on those who’ve lost touch with the Christmas spirit, while the other is a much-loved scarefest that is fast approaching its 10th anniversary. But had things panned out differently, Trick ‘r Treat, the Halloween-set anthology film written and directed by Dougherty, would’ve been summoned onto the big screen by a whole host of A-list directors.

While appearing on the latest episode of Post Mortem With Mick Garris, where he reiterated his desire to launch a bona fide sequel, Michael Dougherty recalled the lineup of talent Stan Winston (The Terminator) had assembled to direct each of the four instalments. Their names? George Romero, John Carpenter (Halloween), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), and Winston himself, who drew praise for his special effects work on Jurassic Park.

The character of Sam, which is the sort of demonic trick-or-treater which wanders around between the different stories, he started off as an animated character that I did for a short film at NYU. So, he was essentially my senior thesis film…One of the first people that I sent the film to was Stan Winston, because I was just a massive fan of his. Who wasn’t? Surprisingly, he wrote back, or he reached out, and said, ‘Saw the short, loved it, if you’re ever in L.A., let me know, and I’d love to sit down, and hear about what you want to do.’ And so, I booked a flight to Los Angeles. [Laughs] I took him up on the invitation, wasn’t going to let him squeeze out of it, and sat down. And he said, ‘Listen you need to be making movies.’ Because I was an animator at Nickelodeon at the time…He’s like, ‘Have you written a spec script yet?’ And I said, ‘No, I haven’t done that.’ He goes, ‘Well, you should do that.’…Stan was the first one to read [the script for Trick ‘r Treat] and say, ‘There’s really something here, I’d love to produce this.’

Here’s the kicker: despite Romero, Carpenter and Hooper all pledging their services, no studio wanted to touch an anthology movie with a ten-foot pole, which is all the more disheartening now that interconnected franchises and anthologies (see: Star Wars) are all the rage. You could say Trick ‘r Treat was ahead of its time, in many ways.

Here’s the remainder of that quote from Michael Dougherty:

And so he assembled George Romero, himself, John Carpenter, and Tobe [Hooper]. What a lineup, right? Took it out, nobody wanted to touch it. I mean, I remember the notes we got back from some of the studios, and one that stuck out for me was, ‘This movie has vampires and werewolves, which are too old-fashioned. Nobody wants to see vampires and werewolves.’ I was mildly offended by that, you know. Because I was like, Well, I want to see vampires and werewolves! This was when they were doing Scream knock-offs. The only kind of horror being made was twentysomethings playing teenagers being stalked by someone in a mask…But that setback really allowed me the time to continue working on the script, and then I also went and wrote a couple of Bryan Singer’s movies (X-Men 2 and Superman Returns), and that helped me learn about production, because I had to be on set for those. And so, because of that delay, I got enough experience that Legendary/Warner Bros. said, ‘Hey, well, do you want to direct it?’

Talk about a missed opportunity. Alas, Dougherty was able to secure funding for Trick ‘r Treat on his own, and later went on to helm Krampus. Those cult horror gems haven’t gone unnoticed, either, given the director has been tapped to helm Godzilla: King of the Monsters ahead of its release in 2019.