Early on in Trick ‘R Treat, the Halloween film slowly developing cult status, a young boy, fresh from destroying pumpkins along a fence row while dragging a large bag of candy, sits on the steps of his principal’s house and listens to him speak of the traditions surrounding the spooky holiday and how they were meant to pay respect to the dead instead of just score candy and cause mischief. The kid scoffs at the notion, and responds by eating even more candy than his small pudgy frame should allow. This idea of “respecting traditions” permeates throughout this soundtrack as well, and takes the form of long horn swells and string stabs commonly found in the most well loved horror and thriller films of our time. The composer, Douglas Pipes, knows how to keep the music foreboding without being overbearing, all the while keeping the melody of the common “trick or treat, smell my feet” children’s rhyme peppered throughout. This keeps things playful yet sinister; it’s almost like the musical embodiment of the film’s main character, Sam. Also of note, this tracklist on the score flows exactly as it does in the film so it’s easy to re-watch the scenes in your head as you listen.
The score consists of four different themes, each with the “trick or treat” melody sprinkled in. The first theme, Father and Son, has some really gentle passages augmented by sharp horn attacks and percussion. Its calling card is to give a false sense of safety and then bombard you with an attack. The beginning of “Father and Son” reminds me a lot of the way Elmer Bernstein uses strings in Ghostbusters, a respectful nod to the past. Intentional or not, it adds a perfect sense of nostalgia.
The second theme revolves around The Halloween Schoolbus Massacre and on the title track, there’s hints of John Carpenter’s signature touch, in the slow pulsing piano. It then evolves into something more akin to what Danny Elfman is known for: slow string crescendos over light piano arpeggios. It sounds almost like something from Batman in parts, while then shifting into something more tribal with percussion taking the forefront. Sure to be a favorite from this segment is “To the Quarry,” a cut that does a fantastic job holding suspense and makes for a great bridge between the beginning and end of the theme. The next theme is based around Laurie’s First Time, but it feels a bit more like cues to the movie than the others. It’s still good but couldn’t hold my attention like the first two.
The final theme involves Old Mr. Kreeg. These tracks are very atmospheric, with short bursts of percussion during thematic moments. The addition of the children’s choir is especially creepy and very effective when used sparingly. These tracks are also the most bombastic, marrying the sound of horns, voices and timpanis in a devilish cacophony of sound. “Pumpkin Shooter/Meet Sam” rises to a fiery peak, only to be offset by the gentle piano of “The Bus Driver” and the lush strings of “The Neighborhood.”
As another homage to horror movies that came before, the combination of “Main Titles” and “End Credits” feel very similar to what John Harrison did on another Waxwork release, Creepshow. You have to love how well Pipes married all of the themes together with these tracks; it simply hasn’t been done much better.
Side D of the soundtrack is full of sound effects from the film. It’s a lot of fun, and while not musical, it adds another dimension to the album. This is a bonus and not available on the digital or CD release.
Played on a Dual 1229 with an Empire 888-TE Cartridge
The sound quality on this release is stellar. J. Yuenger (of White Zombie fame) edited and mastered the album, and the attention to detail really shows. There is a massive dynamic range on most of the tracks which gives the louder tracks a larger than life feel. On some of the softer piano parts, the notes ring out with enough clarity to keep the audience engaged and listening. There were a few clicks and pops on the initial listen, but nothing distracting from the overall experience.
Waxwork is known for well thought out and artful packaging, and Trick ‘r Treat is no exception. The gatefold cover is printed on protective cardstock and feels thick to the touch. The colors give off a vibrant orange hue and absolutely ooze the holiday spirit, while the artwork (by Francesco Francavilla) captures the essence of the movie beautifully.
I purchased the candy corn splatter variant and couldn’t be more happy with the colors. The 180-gram vinyl is clear with orange and yellow pieces mixed in to give the appearance of candy corn pieces embedded in the record. It looks nice while stable but even better when spinning.
Included with the album is a 11” x 22” poster, as well as a Waxwork Records die cut sticker.
This score is one of the best I’ve heard in the last 10 years, possibly due to the fact that it mixes nostalgic cues with terrifically thematic melodies. Kudos to Waxwork on the production as well, marrying evocative artwork and sound in a way few other companies can. This is a release to be proud of, and should become a Halloween listening staple for years to come.
“Main Titles,” “The Bus Driver,” & “End Credits”
You can still pick up the soundtrack over at Waxwork. An orange and black swirl variant and an orange variant are both still available.