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The Untold Truth Of Sam From Trick 'R Treat

The spookiest time of year is marked by costumes, candy, and most importantly, traditional horror film viewings galore. With the horror genre being an important part of cinema since the medium's earliest days, there are countless blood-spattered, ghostly horrific, and darkly sinister tales to watch at home.

In the past decade, however, fans of the holiday have one film in particular that stands above the rest. Michael Dougherty's horror anthology film, 2007's "Trick 'r Treat," not only delights viewers with ghoulish tales but also honors the very best of All Hallow's Eve. Rightfully, it gained a cult following in the years after its release that has only grown to massive proportions. Now, significant real estate in Spirit Halloween stores is dedicated to the film, while fans continue to celebrate "Trick 'r Treat" at horror conventions, through social media, and in their own Halloween viewings of the movie.

The mascot of the film, and arguably a rising icon of the horror genre and Halloween in general, is Sam. This character made his mark as the simultaneously devilish and innocent spirit of the year's spookiest day. Standing no taller than a small child, Sam watches his beloved holiday unfold with delight, only to spring into action should he witness an unlucky soul dishonoring Halloween tradition. Despite only one cinematic adventure to his name, Sam is an iconic figure with plenty of lore and details surrounding his character and creation. Let's take a look at what makes this burlap-sacked pumpkin child tick.

In Trick 'r Treat lore, Sam is several hundred years old

Sam may appear as a small child, but don't let appearances fool you. The vengeful Halloween spirit is actually several centuries old, maybe more. In "Trick 'r Treat" lore, there's no record of Sam's origin. In an interview with Paste previewing the graphic novel "Trick 'r Treat: Days of the Dead," creator Michael Dougherty was asked about the origins of Sam. He stated, "I don't like the idea of revealing what his origins are, because I feel like that takes away from the mystery and power of the character, which is why I'll never do a story that says flat out, here are his origins."

While we may never know how Sam came to be, "Days of the Dead" does inform us that his existence spans centuries. The earliest story begins in the 1600s in Ireland, where a witch is sentenced to die. Despite actually being a witch, the woman is rather benevolent and a young soldier sent to question her winds up falling in love. Though the duo attempts to escape, they both fail and are burned at the stake. The witch catches a glimpse of Sam in the distance as the flames engulf her. She takes this as a sign that her spirit will endure. The couple is shown on the final page to be happily reunited in spirit form. While Sam might terrify those who deserve it, he seems to also be rather helpful when unprovoked.

Sam once took vengeance on western pioneers

Another tale, "Corn Maiden" in the "Days of the Dead" anthology graphic novel chronicles pioneers building a railroad west during the mid-1800s. Mr. Bledsoe leads the group of construction workers setting their sights on bringing civilization to the open wilderness. His adventurous daughter, Sarah, tags along. Quickly, they find that native people are living on the very land Bledsoe wants. While he grumbles about his irritations over the settlement, his daughter befriends a native girl by the name of P'wani.

Shortly after befriending Sarah, P'wani gives her a Sam doll. She states that the doll will protect Sarah from evil spirits. Sarah then asks if the doll itself resembles a "good" spirit. P'wani cryptically states, "I would not say that, but the shaman told me he is very old and very powerful."

Later, Sarah's father shifts from disapproving of her native friends to suspiciously supportive, allowing her to celebrate Halloween with them. Excited, Sarah brings along candy to share with her newfound friends. Quickly, however, all of the natives fall ill and die — Sarah's father poisoned the candy. He admits to his colleague that, if Sarah partook of the candy, it have been an acceptable loss. Sam watches in the background. He then stands by Sarah and wreaks a devastating vengeance on her father and his workers as pumpkins and vines emerge from their bodies, killing them. Sarah, Sam, and the spirits of the natives look on as Halloween justice is done.

Sam first appeared in a hand-drawn animated short

More than a decade before "Trick 'r Treat" ever came to fruition, Sam was actually the primary character for an animated short Michael Dougherty created in 1996. The character was conceived by Dougherty during his time as a student at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts where this short animated film "Season's Greetings" was produced. Dougherty states on his official YouTube channel that the images used for the animation were all hand-drawn, colored with markers, and glued to clear animation cells. That's a far cry from the blazingly faster computer-assisted animation processes of today!

In the film, Sam appears much as he does in the later "Trick 'r Treat" film, albeit with a few minor differences in his burlap sack mask. In the animated short, he's also initially presented as a young trick-or-treater. He passes a sign showing a missing child foreshadowing the danger to come. After failing to secure any sweet loot while trick-or-treating, the seemingly little tyke heads down a back alley where a shadowy adult figure approaches him. The stalker attacks, but little Sam is seen as the one emerging from the alleyway with a suspiciously full sack in tow. Turns out you can't trick Sam, no matter your size.

Sam is derived from the Celtic festival Samhain

Surely everyone who's seen "Trick 'r Treat" can agree that Sam embodies the Halloween spirit in actions — and name. Ultimately, Halloween as a holiday is derived from many old pagan traditions, many of which come from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival marks the moment in the year in which ancient peoples believed that it was easiest to communicate with both the dead and non-human spirits. It was also a way of celebrating the final harvest before winter set in. The Celts also believed that fairies or other spirits might cross over and whisk people away at this time of year. So, they often dressed up in beastly costumes to avoid their own kidnapping.

During the night of October 31st, monsters and spirits were said to wander the harvested plains. Records speak of headless spirits and imps. Families would light fires near their farms and homes to protect them from these creatures. In the Middle Ages, Celts began carving hollowed-out turnips that would be hung by strings and lit from inside — these were the precursors to our pumpkin-based jack-'o-lanterns. Eventually, the practice of "mumming" began, which involved putting on costumes and traveling from home to home to receive baked treats in return for singing songs and praying for the dead. Given the legacy of Halloween, the character of Sam was named rather appropriately.

Sam is meant to resemble a baby and a pumpkin

By design, Sam was supposed to stalk the streets of the fictional Ohio town of Warren Valley with an innocent exterior. But what lies beneath the mask is something devilishly delightful for horror enthusiasts. Michael Dougherty first created Sam for the aforementioned animated short, where he remained masked. But it was in 2002 when he first sketched his idea for what might be underneath the burlap, according to the film's extras. He gave the sketch to his concept artist with the following instruction: "If you took a fetus skull and pumpkin and merged them together, what would that look like?" The product is what is seen in the film once Sam's mask is removed. And rest assured that the amalgamation is perfectly horrific.

To fit with the theme and the style of the character, his anatomy had to match. Therefore, the character is, of course, chock full of pumpkin guts. When Kreeg fires his shotgun at Sam, instead of flesh, seeds and stringy pumpkin entrails explode from the little monstrosity.

Michael Dougherty always wanted a child to embody Sam

Halloween might be a holiday of horrors and frights, but it also invigorates the childhood spirit of imagination and fantasy. The tales, traditions, and themes of the day are shrouded in magic — something only kids can truly appreciate to the fullest. So, Michael Dougherty wanted his character of Sam to embody that idea. And the only way for the little Halloween icon to appear as a child is to actually cast a child. In an interview with Collider back in 2013, Dougherty stated that he "felt the spirit of Halloween would be someone playful and mischievous, because let's face it, as creepy as Halloween is it's also really fun." He continued, "There's a sort of an innocence that balances out the terrifying aspects of it, so I felt the character should embody that. So I thought, well if there was a spirit of Halloween he would probably walk around looking like a kid so he could wander the streets and blend in..."

Ultimately, then 7-year-old Quinn Lord was cast as the Halloween acolyte, Sam. Dougherty said that, while they had auditioned many kids, Lord ultimately captured the contrasting innocence and mischievousness of Sam rather well. Complete in a onesie and carrying a massive lollipop to boot, Sam fit the bill of seemingly sweet childhood on the outside. Unfortunately, despite the adorable façade presented by Lord, Emma and Mr. Kreeg were forced to see the nastier side of Sam.

Sam appears in a series of commercials featuring other holidays

Many fans are longing for more "Trick 'r Treat," or at least another fun Halloween adventure featuring Sam. While there's always the prequel graphic novel, "Trick 'r Treat: Days of the Dead," there's also a live-action video option for those who'd like to see Sam onscreen once again. Newer fans may not be aware that Sam was actually featured in a series of short films back in 2011. Michael Dougherty partnered with FEARnet to market the 24-hour "Trick 'r Treat" marathons on Halloween day that aired from 2011 to 2013. It mimicked the 24-hour marathons of the sweeter "A Christmas Story" that many American viewers are used to watching every year on Christmas Day.

The short films feature Sam appearing during other holidays or pivotal moments throughout the year, scaring people in scenarios such as "Back to School," "Easter Candy," and "Father's Day." Each short is only one minute long so that it could act as a commercial for the annual marathon. Fans eager for more Sam can easily enjoy these shorts that also appear as mini side stories or sequels to Sam's adventures in Warren Valley. Some of the films even remind viewers of the traditions that must be honored during Halloween, at least if they wish to avoid the wrath of Sam. The videos can now be found on Michael Dougherty's official YouTube channel under the "Trick 'r Treat" playlist.

Sam's severed hand scene is an homage to The Thing

Being a horror aficionado himself, Dougherty was sure to include details and references to other great moments in horror history. One standout moment is the scene where Mr. Kreeg shoots Sam's hand off. For starters, the actor who played Mr. Kreeg, Brian Cox, had significant input on his appearance as Mr. Kreeg. In the documentary, "Trick 'r Treat: The Lore and Legends of Halloween," it was shown that the actor asked to be styled in a manner similar to horror maestro John Carpenter.

To further the reference, the scene between Kreeg and Sam plays out quite like a striking moment in one of John Carpenter's most famous horror films, 1982's "The Thing." When Sam's hand begins skittering around the floor, Mr. Krieg utters, "You got to be f***in' kidding me." In "The Thing," the character Palmer says the same line in complete shock as he watches another character's detached head grow crab-like legs and scurry around the lab. It's safe to say that this particular choice of words would be entirely appropriate in either scenario, but it's clear where Dougherty and Cox got the inspiration.

Sam's actor had a cameo appearance earlier in the film

Sam is no doubt the star of the film, given that he appears in every segment, including the climactic ending. Young actor Quinn Lord portrayed Sam admirably well throughout, providing us with a child-like spirit that was eerily and inseparably bonded with the Halloween season. As Sam, the actor's face never saw the cameras due to being masked in the skeletal pumpkin latex abomination we know and love

However, Lord did appear once on-screen in a very different role. In the early moments of the film, Laurie (Anna Paquin), along with her sister and friends, are suiting up in their Halloween attire for the evening, utilizing some public dressing rooms. A young peeping Tom is running between their stalls and peering through the cracks in the doors as the girls loudly have adult conversations. The little curious boy was played by none other than Quinn Lord himself. The young lad was quickly brushed away by his mother, who then angrily scolded the girls for their loud chatter. While the actor behind Sam did some seriously heavy lifting, given that much of his was done while wearing a presumably thick suit, it's nice that the film also honored the actor behind its icon with a brief scene showing his face.

An adult gymnast was a stunt double for Sam

Sam can be a seriously feisty character. No one knows this better than Mr. Kreeg. When one so painfully denies the spirit of Halloween and refuses to honor its traditions, Sam has no choice other than to teach some much-needed lessons with his razor blade-infused candy bar and tiny bare hands. The climactic moment of the film involves the tiny creature tormenting Mr. Kreeg, an event that eventually turns into a full-scale assault.

Throughout the tussle, there's no way Michael Dougherty and the crew behind the film would allow a 7-year-old boy to perform potentially harmful stunts, such as flailing around on the back of Brian Cox. Instead, 4'8" gymnast Suzi Stingl suited up in the orange onesie to handle the more physical action of the moment. This is far from Stingl's first rodeo. She's actually worked as a stunt replacement for many children's roles, using her small stature and professional training to keep young actors out of harm's way. She's performed stunts in films like "Thi13een Ghosts," "The Santa Clause 2," "Taken," and 2019's "Pet Sematary" among many others.