A heavy metal icon dies in a fire and mounts a supernatural
comeback from beyond the grave on Halloween night.
Trick or Treat (1986)
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Written by Michael S. Murphey, Joel Soisson, Rhet Topham
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini,
Doug Savant, Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne
You hear a title like Trick or Treat, you think ghouls and goblins on Halloween night. If that's what you're looking for, Michael Dougherty's got something for ya. But this film is very much a heavy metal horror flick that dips into comedy quite a bit. Honestly, I don't really like that it calls itself Trick or Treat, considering that it has very little to do with Halloween in the first place. Also, for an R-rated 80's horror film, it's surprisingly tame and doesn't really deliver. But holy shit, what an awesome soundtrack. The short-lived 80's metal band Fastway deliver some fucking hammers with tracks like "After Midnight" and the epic title track "Trick or Treat." But the movie it highlights isn't quite up to snuff.
Eddie (Price) is a metalhead who is constantly bullied at school for being weird and creepy, when in reality he just keeps to himself and enjoys his music. When his hero, heavy metal icon Sammi Curr (Fields), dies in a hotel fire, Eddie is distraught. He laments to local metal DJ Nuke (Simmons), who gifts him an album of Curr's final song. Eddie takes it home, plays it, and realizes the spirit of Sammi Curr lives on in the album, and it wants to fuck and kill. Eddie has to find a way to stop his idol from coming back for good, and it won't be easy. Gotta give big props to Tony Fields who knocks it out of the park as Curr. Also, it was beyond delightful to see Ozzy Osbourne himself play a Christian evangelist who hates metal music. What a great cameo.
Despite a lot of positive stuff, the film is fairly dull for most of the run. The story doesn't make a lot of sense, we're left with so many questions, and it never really feels like a horror movie. Even the death scenes are just Sammi Curr zapping someone with electricity, and they blow up off screen. Admittedly, with another viewing, I'll probably enjoy it more for what it is. But right now, I had pretty low expectations and I'm still a bit disappointed.
Also known as Ragman, Trick or Treat came along at a time in the 80s when two subcultures, metal heads and horror fans, came together in some good (Black Roses, 1986) and incredibly bad (Hard Rock Zombies, 1985) flicks with metal fans as the protagonists fighting demons, zombies, and spectral serial killers (Slumber Part Massacre II, 1987). To give you an idea of what was happening at the time and why movies like this seemed to be popping up out of nowhere, the country was in the grips of conservative psychos (also known as the PMRC) who thought heavy metal and violence in movies were causing the moral decay of society's youth. In a now historic moment of giving the finger to the man, Dee Snider (lead singer of Twisted fucking Sister!) sat in front of these dumbasses and schooled them on just how wrong they are and if they would actually listen to the songs and read the lyrics, they'd find that a lot of the music their children are listening to are inspiring and creative. But what if they were right?
This is the world that Eddie Weinbauer (Marc Price) lives in and who we are introduced to in the opening of the film, writing a letter to his idol and hometown hero, Sammi Curr (Tony Fields). Adorning Eddie's walls are poster of Sammi on stage as well as other metal bands but Sammi is his idol and a beacon that he could get out of his shitty town and make something of himself. Quickly, Eddie's world is shattered as he finds out that Sammi has died in a hotel fire. This event is made all the more tragic as Sammi was trying to play a Halloween show at the high school he graduated from which is the same one Eddie currently attends. Jumping into his car (with personalized license plate: RAGMAN) he heads to the local radio station to commiserate with Nuke (Gene Simmons), the rock DJ, about Sammi's death. While it is only a cameo, Simmons does pretty well and serves Ragman with some hard truths about who Sammi Curr really was and that Eddie didn't know him at all, just his image and music. Nuke shows Eddie the only copy of Sammi's now final record that he was going to play at midnight, per Sammi's request, and he gives the record to Ragman (which he taps saying "Sammi is inside here.") as he has already copied the album to tape and will still play it. Eddie goes home and puts the record on and falls asleep where he has an intense dream where he sees Sammi sitting in a pentagram of fire with his other band mates conducting some kind of ritual and he wakes to the record skipping.
Something that the PMRC really hit on with heavy metal bands, and even the Beatles, was backward masking (or backmasking). They posited that bands were putting subliminal messages into their music that could be deciphered when someone played the record backwards. I think this is more of a case of them looking for something than it being an actual, diabolical practice although it was a technique that was used by musicians throughout the 60's and 70's as they incorporated experimental, avant garde approaches to making music. What I really think, as is almost always the case with these dipshits crying wolf, is them hearing what THEY WANTED TO HEAR instead of anything sinister being there at all. As I asked earlier: what if it could happen? Eddie does just this and finds out that Sammi is speaking directly to him from inside the record! Through the early parts of the flick, we see Eddie being constantly hounded and tortured by the polo wearing dickheads that rule his school. They pick on him and tease him for earing the clothes that he wears and is even locked out of the locker room naked so he can be photographed! He's tossed into a pool during a pool party that no one wanted him at and this is the breaking point for him and he vows to get them all back and Sammi is all too willing to help.
In an amazing sequence, Sammi is birthed from the speakers in Eddie's room as he died, half his face burned and an intense look in his eyes. The character was originally going to be played by Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. but ultimately the role went to Tony Fields who channeled Blackie, Ozzy Osbourne, and Alice Cooper in his portrayal of Sammi Curr. Once this devil is unleashed, all bets are off and Sammi does get to perform at his old high school and boy does he light the place up, literally! Kevin Yagher (who also did special effects for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2) did the special effects for the film and is also the singer in the band that Sammi takes over upon his return to Lakeside High just so he can explode his own head. He designed the demon that makes a quick cameo in a needs to be seen to be believed sequence of spectral aardvarking through a Walkman, trust me you haven't seen anything like this before and you're welcome. This movie kind of limps to its ending but I think it's an enjoyable experience throughout and one that should become a staple of everyone's spooky season watch list and not just because of the title. Check out the podcast episode for more on this rocking good time of a movie and remember: No wimps, No false metal!