In between box-office heaven and unreleased hell lies DVD Purgatory, where movies with popular actors, big budgets and bigger problems rest in eternal damnation on the shelves of your local Blockbuster. Each month we'll take a look at one of these lost souls and figure out what went wrong. This month's unfortunate victim is "Trick 'R Treat."

It's no big mystery why movie studios continually crank out horror movies. They're cheap to produce and usually make a tidy profit when all is said and done. It's easy money, which is part of the reason why we're up to "Saw 6".

Most of today's horror movies are poorly received cash grabs, primed to capitalize on teenage audiences. Which makes it all the more baffling why a critically acclaimed, original horror movie like "Trick 'R Treat" would get the red-headed stepchild treatment by Warner Bros.

This film was scheduled to be released in October 2007, but was unceremoniously bumped off the release schedule and sent into limbo. The scuttlebutt in Hollywood was that Warner's didn't want to go up against "Saw IV" in a box-office showdown.

But another, more complicated theory - one that was speculated on by reliable genre sites like and Bloody Disgusting - suggested that the fate of "Trick" was retribution against producer Bryan Singer and writer-director Michael Dougherty for the box office failure of "Superman Returns," which the former directed and the latter co-wrote.

Once Warner Bros. declined to release the film, producer Legendary Pictures held screenings for potential buyers only to have no takers. Then, it hit the festival circuit, where it drew rapturous reviews from hard-to-please horror fan boys.

And now, more than three years after it was filmed, "Trick 'R Treat" finally gets released, with one burning question: Is it worth the hype? Absolutely.

The anthology film has a storied history in the horror genre, and "Trick" is a worthy addition to the canon. Dougherty intricately weaves four tales of murder and mayhem into a seamless package - it could have gone wrong, but it's a testament to his passion for this project that it all comes together.

The stories revolve around a local principal (Dylan Baker), who likes to have a little too much Halloween fun with his son; a young woman (Anna Paquin) who seems to have trouble with guys; a group of kids making a pilgrimage to the site of a haunted bus crash; and a grumpy old man (Dylan Baker) who receives a most unwanted trick-or-treater.

Without revealing too much, "Trick" is the rare recent horror film that doesn't feel the need to punish the viewer with torture devices and grim brutalization - no, the movie wants to give us good, old-fashioned scares. It's the kind of movie that you can watch without feeling the need to take a shower after, or figure out the complex mythology behind a serial killer's motives.

It would have been nice if this movie had come out in theatres - this is the perfect communal film, where everyone could have jumped at the scares and gasped at the revelations - but at this point, it's a success that the film saw the light of day at all. At least it got a beautiful Blu-ray transfer.

Should this have been sent to DVD Purgatory? No way. This would have been a bona fide box-office hit, especially given the tie-in to Halloween. Now, it will have to settle with being a cult classic.

Image © 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

Story by Elliott Smith

Starpulse contributing writer