It's Halloween today, the day that all candy companies and greedy dentists love even more than the average Jane and Joe Schmoe do (the latter, after all, have to buy the candy and pay the dental bills — and take down the toilet paper and clean off the soap and eggs and shaving cream). And so: Season's Greetings! In this case, not from a wasted life, but from filmmaker Michael Dougherty, the man behind such fine films as his two season-themed cinema horrors Krampus (2015) and Trick 'r Treat (2007).
Those of you who have seen the last might well recognize the main character of this month's 4-minute short film treat: Sam, the burlap-sack-pumpkin-headed and footie-pyjamas-wearing little "boy" that interlinks the four Halloween-set tales of terror of Trick 'r Treat, made his debut in this short. Back when Dougherty made this short "greetings card" of horror, he didn't even have the tip of his
weenie little toe in the industry door — it was a full eight years later that he had his first true credit of note, as one of the names behind the screenplay to Bryan "I Don't Use A Casting Couch to Cast the Lads in My Films" Singer's excellent X2: X-Men United (2003 / trailer).
Season's Greetings took nine months to create, and was drawn and colored by hand. A year later, in 1997, it hit the air as a segment on the Halloween special of MTV's sorely missed adult-animation showcase Cartoon Sushi (1997-98), which in itself was the successor of the MTV's just as sorely missed animation showcase Liquid Television (1991-95). [Our Short Film of the Month for August 2012, Henry Selick's Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions (1991), also premiered on Cartoon Sushi, if a bit earlier than Season's Greetings.] The drawing style is a bit primitive and scratchy, but it is definitely to the advantage of the overall appearance and effect of the film: it is in no way cold, impersonal or sterile, and thus gets under the skin rather well — only to turn blackly humorous at the end.
Season's Greetings, the short, plays with certain contemporary fears even more so than the later feature film it helped inspire. It starts with night falling and lights going out in the suburbia, where a young boy, obviously a free-range kid, is trick-or-treating on his — wandering, at one point, past a tacked-up flyer for a "Missing" boy. From the indistinct shadows of the night, the dark form of a large man emerges and begins to follow the young trick-or-treater, a man too obviously adult to simply want to rob the child of his candy. But when the man follows the boy down into a dark and forlorn alley, things do not go as might be expected...
A great short by a talented filmmaker (OK, let's all just pretend he had nothing to do with Godzilla: King of the Monsters [2019 / German trailer] or Bryan "I'm A Great Guy & Totally Innocent" Singer's Superman Returns [2006 / trailer]). Trick 'r Treat 2 has recently been announced as Dougherty's next project — in the case of Sam and the anthology format, let us hope that lightning strikes twice.