Sam, or Samhain, is the brainchild of film director/writer Michael Dougherty, appearing first in Dougherty's 1996 short film, Season's Greetings, and then in the movie Trick 'r Treat. He was played by child actor Quinn Lord in the film. Appearing as a seemingly innocent masked trick-or-treater, Sam is revealed to be a demonic pumpkin-like creature who acts as the enforcer for the rules and traditions of Halloween, and is willing to do anything to make sure these rules are honored. Sam is essentially the Spirit of Halloween and has even been said by some to be a personification of the holiday itself. Since the film's release, Sam has become the mascot of Halloween.
Sam's name originates from Samhain, the origins of Halloween itself. He is depicted as a child dressed in a Halloween costume, which consists of an orange set of pajamas, and a mask made of a burlap sack with buttons for eyes. Sam drags a dirty sack around with him throughout the film, but its contents are unknown, presumably candy; Although the blood stains on the sack and the cat screeching when he drags it down the stairs would strongly suggest otherwise. Despite his childlike appearance, it is established that Sam is more demonic than he appears, hiding a pumpkin-shaped head resembling a skull. Dougherty described Sam's head as a cross "between an embryo and a pumpkin". Quinn Lord, who plays Sam in the film, described his character as being a demon who was born in a pumpkin patch.
Behavior and purpose
Sam acts very much like a child, being mischievous and appearing to love candy. In a deleted scene of the film, Sam is shown flipping his middle finger at a teenager. Sam is the personified being of Halloween itself as well as the enforcer of its traditions and rules. He visits a different town every year on Halloween and appears in Trick 'r Treat to enforce the rules of the holiday and punish those who ignore and defy them. There are many Halloween traditions. The ones demonstrated in the film are: hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, wear a costume, and never blow out a jack-o-lantern before midnight. As enforcer of the rules and rituals of Halloween, Sam takes it upon himself to punish those who break tradition in the most brutal and mischievous way possible. Interestingly enough, Sam's killings seem to suggest a cruel sense of irony. For example, his attempted killing of Mr. Kreeg involved Kreeg falling down a flight of stairs covered with candy, razor blades, and broken glass. This was of course after Kreeg angered Sam by not handing out trick-or-treating candy.
Sam utilizes his weapons: Creating a sharp blade from a half-bitten lollipop, using a razor blade hidden inside a chocolate bar that he trick-or-treated from the local principal, the list goes on.
Sam possesses several dark supernatural powers:
- The ability to scale walls and ceilings much like a spider.
- Telekinesis: He opens the door to make his exit (after attacking Mr. Kreeg.)
- Manipulation of fear: Sam has mastered the ability to play with his victims' minds.
- Regeneration: He was shot in the head and had visible damage, but when he came to, the damage was gone. Sam's regeneration power is strong enough to reattach severed parts, i.e. his hand.
- Superhuman Strength: While fighting Mr. Kreeg, Sam is able to knock him down just by jumping at him. He is also able to break Mr. Kreeg's arm during their fight just by twisting it.
Sam may leave a rule-breaker alone if they decide to follow the rules set by Sam's example. For instance, Sam leaves Mr. Kreeg alone after Kreeg unintentionally offers him some chocolate.
There is not much known about the origins of Sam. Creator Michael Dougherty has mentioned in multiple interviews that he has thought about creating a back-story for Sam, but has not publicly released one thus far.Sam's first appearance was in Season's Greetings, looking for candy on Halloween. After failing to get any, Sam wanders into a dark alley and is attacked by a man in a black hooded cloak (possibly a serial killer or child molester). However, the fight ends with Sam emerging from the alley with a full sack.
In Trick 'r Treat, Sam visits the fictional Warren Valley, Ohio. He traverses throughout the town to observe other people as they either celebrate or ignore Halloween, punishing those who ignore the rules. Sam deals with several different groups of characters throughout the film's non-linear storyline.
Michael Dougherty created Sam when he was at New York University taking animation classes, originally creating him as an alter ego for himself. Another reason behind Sam's creation was to give Halloween an iconic figure, other seasonal holidays having such iconic figures (e.g. Christmas has Santa Claus). He later used Sam as the main character or influential presence in Trick 'r Treat. Sam's pumpkin-like head was originally sketched by Dougherty in 2002, and he showed it to the film's concept artist to adapt into the film. Quinn Lord was picked to play Sam. Dougherty explained he wanted an actual child to play the character to make the performance look realistic. A stunt girl was used during the fight sequence with Brian Cox's character.
"Sam" is pronounced using English phonetics, as opposed to its word of origin, Samhain, which is pronounced with Irish Gaelic phonetics (pronounced "sow-en").