Interview: 'Trick 'R Treat' Halloween Decorations Coming From Michael Dougherty & AtmosFX's Pete Reichert

As we continue waiting for a sequel, Trick 'r Treat 2, writer-director Michael Dougherty and AtmosFX's co-founder Pete Reichert are hoping some Trick 'r Treat-themed Halloween decorations will tide folks over. The Krampus director and his old pal from his days at MTV are bringing fans of the anthology horror movie some vignettes involving Sam, the enforcer of Halloween's rules and traditions.

The digital decorations will show the pumpkin-faced troublemaker confronting a bully without a costume, terrorizing a home handing out healthy snacks, and more. You can place these decorations in front of a window or on your lawn, and the images are, like the film, aimed a little more towards adults. We recently spoke with Dougherty and Reichert about making these Trick 'r Treat decorations, what to expect from the vignettes, and Dougherty's immense passion for his creation.

Below, get more information on the Trick 'r Treat decorations.

When did you both start working on this project?

Reichert: It's two and a half to three years ago when we first discussed it.

Dougherty: Yeah, yeah. And basically what happened was, I was getting ready to decorate for Halloween, and I just kind of wanted to spice things up a bit. And I had made my own holographic ghosts, sort of like Disney's Haunted Mansion style, sort of a modern-day version of Pepper's ghost, the old theater trick. What I had done was I had shot some friends dressed up as ghosts, and then just projected them onto a sheet in my window, so it created the effect of ghosts just hanging out in the windows and watching trick-or-treaters. And I loved it, but I wanted to expand it a bit.

And, lo and behold, there was a company that did nothing but make awesome holographic ghosts. So I bought some of those and used them. It was only after the fact that I looked a little bit closer into this company and found out that it was founded by two friends of mine from my old MTV animation days back in New York. It was Pete [Reichert] and Pete [Williams]. So it was just one of those small-world coincidences that was too hard to ignore. I reached out and said, "A) I love your ghosts. And B) Why don't we make some ghosts together?"

Did you guys revisit Trick 'r Treat to see if there were certain images or ideas you could use? 

Dougherty: We just looked at the movie itself. What was fun for me was, sort of, stepping back a bit and letting Pete and Pete take the ball and run with it. They came back with, first, some written scripts and then some storyboards of like little vignettes. They're almost really short movies where you get to see Sam picking off different types of characters on Halloween night.

I could tell that they knew the movie, and they knew the humor, that it wasn't just Sam massacring people like some slasher, you know, because, in my mind, Sam is very playful. It's all, sort of, cat and mouse to him. This is fun. It's not just going out and killing people, like some mission. And that's what Pete and Pete understood and created was something that captured that mischievous tone.

Pete, did you and Pete often discuss the spirit of the character? 

Reichert: Definitely. When we first started working with Mike, he definitely helped loosen the leash a bit in saying, "Hey, I want you guys to come up with some original stuff, and at the same time, just keep your mind in the spirit of the character in the movie." So it was great. It kind of allowed us to spend a little bit more energy on coming up with some original ideas to run by him rather than have to be constricted to something that was very specific to the film itself. And Mike made clear that this should be something different and entertaining. It was a lot of fun to be able to go down that route, write some scripts, and, certainly, have Mike's input and guidance along the way.

Were there a lot of vignettes written?

Dougherty: I mean, we kind of work the same way on most things. We both independently come up with a list of concepts that we're enthusiastic about, and we share those, and then we pare them down to what we feel are our best ideas. And then, from a script-writing perspective, sometimes it depends; sometimes we might just piecemeal out certain sections for each other to tackle, and then we'll share those and just kind of take notes and revise if necessary. Other times, we might have more of a collective process rather than just a piecemeal. For three years, we've been able to work fairly well together as a creative team.

What's maybe a story or two you guys came up with that people will see Sam doing?

Reichert: Well, most the vignettes feature Sam enforcing his rules for Halloween, and what that kind of means is, he's punishing people who aren't doing what they should be doing.

Dougherty: In a very decorative fashion. I think Sam just views people as potential Halloween props and toys, every last part of them.

Michael, I imagine as Sam's creator, you do feel protective, and it's a character that maybe you don't want to overexpose. 

Dougherty: No.

Yeah, exactly. How carefully do you consider opportunities for Sam?

Dougherty: I'm pretty careful. I mean, he's probably the closest thing I'm going to get to having a kid, honestly. So, on one hand, I'm very protective to make sure that he's portrayed correctly, like, I loaned them the actual screen-used costume to wear, helped out with auditions, and then, they were kind enough to fly me up to Seattle for the shoot. And I didn't direct the sequences, but I was there to, sort of, whisper in their ear and give advice on things Sam might or might not do.

But much like a parent, as much as I try to be super careful, I also want him to grow up a bit and have some freedom and go out on his own and kind of become his own creature. But he's a character that I came up with when I was still in college back in the '90s. You know, he started off as this doodle in my notebooks, and then became an animated short, and then the feature, and now this. So I can't help but feel a little protective of him.

When you first created Sam, did you imagine his backstory? 

Dougherty: Yes and no. I mean, I think that too much backstory, especially for a horror character, can do them a disservice, because what makes a horror character truly scary is mystery. And if you ever explain how the rules work, where they come from, and you sort of lay everything out, then you take away that character's power. And, you know, I think we've seen that happen in a lot of feature reboots, remakes, and sequels where they feel the need to explain everything, and then that character becomes sort of lame, because, well, once you know everything, there's nothing scary about them.

With these vignettes, you could revisit Sam every year or so with new decorations. Is that something you two have discussed?

Reichert: We haven't talked about future vignettes. We'd love to work on them, obviously. I mean, I think Sam's going to be a big hit with the Halloween decoration community. And we'd love to work with Mike again. So it would be a great opportunity. And also, as well, potentially looking down the road at Krampus and other things that Mike has created would be fun.

Michael, is there any chance we'll see Sam again soon in a Trick 'r Treat sequel?

Dougherty: I'm just going to speak carefully about that, because I know, like, the moment I utter a word about the sequel, everyone starts salivating. It is very much my intention to make the sequel. Legendary is very committed to making the movie. Creatively, it's in-process. When it actually happens, I don't know. But hopefully, stuff like this, you know, the digital decorations, the comic books, the merchandise, what have you, will tide people over until I can finally get around to making it. But nothing would make me happier than returning to that universe. Like, I genuinely miss Sam. When we were shooting these vignettes, I was getting a little bit emotional because I would love nothing more than to hang out with Sam again for a year or two, bring him back to the big screen.

You can purchase these decorations at AtmosFX.com at the end of September.