Horror Movies and Heavy Metal: A Review of “Trick Or Treat”
High school is a hellish time for just about everyone. We’ve all had to deal with bad grades, homework, unrequited love, bullies, and the killer ghosts of satanic heavy metal icons. What, you didn’t have to deal with that last one?
I always cringe when I hear someone say that high school was the best time of their life. Really? Was it the delicious school lunches of cardboard and ketchup pizza? Was it being forced to sit through useless class after useless class being taught by someone who stopped caring 5 years before you were born? Those people peaked early. They’re the same goofs that wear their Varsity jackets and add current high schools on Facebook. More often than not, those people were also bullies. The point is, high school is no fun which is why it’s the basis for many horror movies. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Horror High, Carrie, The Craft, and Prom Night all revolving around high school. All three also involve revenge on bullies. Sounds like a theme, huh?
Trick or Treat is a 1986 supernatural horror movie starring Marc Price (Family Ties, The Rescue) as high-schooler Eddie Weinbauer. Eddie is an outcast in school and is consistently being tortured by bully Tim Hainey (Doug Savant, Melrose Place, 24). His one escape is through his love of heavy metal. Eddie consistently writes to his hero, Sammi Curr (Tony Fields, Across the Moon, Santa Barbara) his favorite musician who also went to the same high school as Eddie. Sammi is killed in a mysterious fire leaving Eddie completely devastated. He visits his friend Nuke (Gene Simmons from KISS), a DJ at the local radio station. To help Eddie deal with his grief, Nuke gives him the demo record of Curr’s unreleased last album “Songs In The Key Of Death”. Nuke also informs Eddie that he plans to play the album at midnight on Halloween. While listening to the album, Eddie has a strange vision of a building on fire and Sammi sitting in what appears to be some sort of satanic ritual. He then hears that the record is skipping and that hidden lyrics seem to be directly addressing him. Eddie begins to follow the instructions from the record, taking revenge on Tim. Standing up to his bully, Eddie is filled with a new confidence and begins a friendship with popular girl Leslie (Lisa Orgolini, Born To Ride, Satlin). As time goes on, Eddie realizes that Sammi Curr is actually speaking to him from beyond the grave via the record. Sammi’s evil plans are soon revealed and before Eddie can stop him, an electrical surge reincarnates Sammi, complete with electric powers. Will Eddie and Leslie be able to stop Sammi before his music is broadcast for the entire world to hear?
On the surface, Trick Or Treat is a fun, if somewhat goofy horror movie. It initially hits on the misfit teenager being bullied and wanting revenge trope pretty well. Almost a little too well, in fact. Eddie’s humiliation and torture is so great that if you take out the movie’s camp and put in some ambient music, the first 20 minutes of the movie could be very depressing. Combine this with his airhead and mostly-absent mother, and this could easily be a movie about a school shooting in the right (or wrong) context. Of course, we can’t take out the camp because it really defines the rest of the movie. The special effects, though, are very cartoony. And when I say cartoony, I’m not being abstract. I mean they literally look like they are from a cartoon. The movie manages sprinkle in some legitimately funny humor, such as a student in a mascot costume being carried out of the school dance on a stretcher.
The acting and directing are both fine. Tony Fields was a Solid Gold dancer prior to acting and he sure gets plenty of chances to show off his moves. All that was missing was the bucket of water from Flashdance. There are some fun and creative kills to keep the audience entertained. The story starts to wear thin, though, towards the end. We get the natural progression of a bullied Eddie wanting revenge only to have remorse at his actions. But at the end, Tim is still a bully, trying to force himself on Leslie and even hitting her. So does that mean Eddie was right all along with his quest for revenge? Seems like a bad lesson. Eddie isn’t written as the best hero. Towards the end of the movie, he’s constantly telling Leslie to “stay here” or “wait here”. In fact, it’s Leslie and Eddie’s friend Roger that show more bravery than Eddie does.
The movie does have a fair amount of plot holes that tends to take away from the viewing experience. Why is Sammi chasing after Eddie now that he’s reincarnated? Ultimately, what difference does it make? It’s not like he needs him anymore. And how are they going to explain all of these supernatural deaths? There’s a scene where a band is about to play at the high school dance and Sammi reaches through an amp, kills the singer, and takes his place to perform the concert. This is all done in front of a room full of people and no one cares! I can suspend disbelief, but come on. It also doesn’t help when a microphone is clearly in the shot. Oops.
Another bit of weirdness/creepiness revolves around a scene involving Tim’s girlfriend Gennie listening to a cassette copy of “Song In The Key Of Death”. Through the power of satanic magic (I guess) Sammi molests Gennie with a ghost-like animated hand. After disrobing, Gennie opens her eyes to see a giant green monster on top of her. What was the point of this scene? It was incredibly uncomfortable and wholly unnecessary. It didn’t add to the story and made the movie far darker than intended. On top of that, where did this monster version of Sammi come from and why didn’t we ever see it again? It was just so very strange and didn’t make much sense.
When most movies try to address heavy metal, we get some sort of ham-fisted reference to a band or album, and nothing more. See the “No way! I love Pantera too!” conversation from Mighty Ducks 3 for an example. I’ll give Trick or Treat a lot of credit though because there is enough in this movie to make any metal fan happy. We have references to Judas Priest, Megadeth, Exciter, Lizzy Borden, Dee Snider, Anthrax, and Impaler. There is also a reference to the PMRC Senate hearings made famous by the spat between Dee Snider and Tipper Gore. Clearly, someone knew what they were doing when putting this together. Of course, the movie’s underlying message does seem to say that heavy metal is evil, so it’s really a toss-up if Trick or Treat is pro or anti-metal. Music for the movie is provided by Fastway, featuring “Fast” Eddie Clark, formerly of Motorhead and Pete Way, formerly of UFO.
The movie also has cameos by KISS’s Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne as an anti-heavy metal evangelist Reverend Aaron Gilstrom. Despite what some posters and DVD covers might suggest, both rockers do not star in this movie. They just make brief, but fun cameos. Ozzy’s natural stammering makes his character seem more natural and believable. Just think of how many times you say “um” and “uh” in your daily life and then watch a movie. Doesn’t happen too often. Excluding Jeff Goldblum, of course.
Ultimately, Trick or Treat is a fun, if flawed, horror movie. It’s entertaining enough with some good action and subtle humor. It’s cheesy, but fun cheesy.I appreciated that the movie actually put effort into establishing that Eddie loved heavy metal. I also liked that Sammi once referred to Eddie as “false metal”. Apparently, Eddie was reincarnated as a Youtube commenter today.
Trick Or Treat is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.
For the month of October, I will be watching and reviewing heavy metal-related horror movies. If you have any suggestions or requests, please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you enjoyed this review, please check out 365daysofhorrormovies.blogspot.com. I watched and reviewed 1 horror movie every day for an entire year.