Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trick or Treat (1986)

Title: Trick or Treat (1986)

Director: Charles Martin Smith

Cast: Marc Price, Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne

During the 80’s heavy metal was king, and so, a series of heavy metal horror movies emerged. This small group of films are beloved by horror fans and heavy metal fans alike. Basically, if you loved bands like Anthrax, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and Twisted Sister and loved hearing your stereo system loud enough for your ears to bleed, if you loved those deep bass lines, wearing jean jackets, torn jeans, headbands, band t-shirts, spiked belts and wrist bands, leather pants, and took your cassette player and headphones everywhere you went, chances are you were a heavy metal geek and you probably loved movies like Trick or Treat (1986). The list of heavy metal horror films goes something like this: Rocktober Blood (1984), Hard Rock Zombies (1985), Rock and Roll Nightmare (1987), Black Roses (1988), and Shock ‘Em Dead (1991), which I think ended the whole shebang. But if you ask me, out of all these, the best one is the one I’ll be reviewing today, Trick or Treat, not to be confused with the quintessential Halloween movie with a similar title, Trick R’ Treat (2007).

On this film we meet Eddie Weinbauer, a heavy metal geek of the highest caliber. He worships his favorite heavy metal singer, a guy called Sammi Curr. Eddie is the kind of fan who writes letters to his favorite band, and addresses them like they were his best friends, nay, even brothers! You know, he’s  the kind of fan that takes the music just a little too seriously. Eddie gets laughed at by the bullies at school, gets ignored by the girls and essentially hates high school because of it; but listening to Sammy  Curr makes it all go away. Whenever Eddie listens to Sammy, well, then everything is alright. Unfortunately one day Sammy Curr dies, and its all gloom and doom for Eddie. Still, there’s one guy that gets Eddie’s pain and it’s the local hard rock dj, a guy called  ‘Nuke’, played by none other than KISS front man Gene Simmons, and what’s cooler than having Gene Simmons playing a dj in your heavy metal movie? Nothing, your movie is instantly cooler. So anyhow, Nuke gives Eddie the last unreleased recording made by Sammi Curr! Of course, Eddie quickly runs home to listen to it. Of course he plays the records backwards, because as you all know, there are satanic messages in all heavy metal records. Especially if you play them in reverse! So once Eddie does this, the spirit of Curr talks to him and tells him what to do! It’s not long before everyone who ever made fun or wronged Eddie in some way starts to pay the price.

Basically, what we got here is one of those “the worm turns” movies, where the geeky nerdy guy gets picked on by everyone in school, and then by some supernatural happenstance the hunted becomes the hunter. I’ve seen this formula played out many times in films like Evil Speak (1981), Hunk (1987) and 976-EVIL (1988). In these movies the nerdy guy goes in cahoots with Satan to get sweet revenge on all those who wronged him. This being a movie from the 80’s it makes all the sense in the world because this type of story was very common back then. In these movies the quintessential 80’s bullies always went too far with their pranks and jokes in order to torture the nerdy guy. Why is it that in all of these movies the bullies always act surprised when the people they pick on suddenly snap and strike back? Look at what happened in Columbine. Interesting how this seemingly cheesy, b-movie exemplifies this type of situation perfectly, and in that sense can help us understand the dangers of pushing someone just a little too far, suddenly this silly movie suddenly becomes relevant  in a strange way.  

I like how the film addresses that bullshit idea about ‘satanic’ messages in heavy metal records when you play them backwards. Sure, maybe bands did it, but the only did it to spike up their sales and create controversy, there was nothing satanic about it, they was just messing with people. It was all about the money. But films like Trick or Treat exploited that angle and made the fantasy a reality. It reminded me of The Gate (1987), which also had a similar premise. On that one two best friends open the gate to hell in their backyard by playing a heavy metal record backwards, amongst other things. They also used this idea in Amityville 2: The Possession (1982). On that one, a teenager gets possessed by demons while listening to heavy metal music and then proceeds to murder his whole family! So yeah, this idea was running rampant in the collective consciousness of people back then. Actually, religious zealots probably still believe in this.   

Of course Heavy Metal has always gotten a bad rap. Rock and Roll by nature is rebellious, what heavy metal did was take it to next level. It was angrier, sexier. It’s an amplified version of Rock and Roll, which is why it’s associated with rebellious behavior. The idea that listening to angry music will turn you into a killer is debated as much as the idea that watching violent horror movies will turn you into a violent person. This film explores these themes, but indirectly, I’m sure this is not what the filmmakers where purposely trying to talk about. Let's face it, parents have always been horrified at heavy metal, for example, there's  scene in which Eddie's mom takes a look at her sons heavy metal record collection and is horrified by the covers, then she accidentally sets off the stereo and starts hearing heavy metal. Her face says it all! It’s a hilarious scene, I thought “lady, it’s just music, take a chill pill” or lower the volume, but she instantly goes nuts and seems to forget how to turn down the volume. I think it's funny how heavy metal horrifies some people in the same way that horror movies do, some people just can’t take it. My advice is, you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!

Promotional material for Trick or Treat with Ozzy vs. Sammi Curr

In terms of effects, this film is just fun. I mean, I love the idea of Sammi Curr somehow materializing himself through the stereo system. The whole thing with the purple electricity that surrounds Sammi Curr was so old school, yet it made for cool visuals. On this one there’s lots of cheesy lightning effects and I just love those, they remind me this movie is from the 80’s. There’s this cool scene where green smoke oozes out of these head phones as some hot teenage chick is listening to heavy metal and the green smoke undresses her, then the mist turns into some cheesy ass monster puppet thing, I love that stuff! Another plus is there are lot’s of inside jokes for heavy metal fans, like for example Ozzy Osbourne playing a televangelist talking about “Rock Pornography”. Ha! Ozzy Osbourne playing a televangelist talking against heavy metal? Hilarious! Also, this movie is perfect for Halloween watching. Aside from the fact that it’s all about demonic things coming out of your speaker system, Eddie lives in a house with these two giant Halloween pumpkins on the front steps, he looks like he lives in Halloween Land. And so I highly recommend watching this one come Halloween night.  

Final words is that after watching this cheesy heavy metal movie for a while, I started to realize that this movie is actually kind of awesome. I mean, the idea that an evil heavy metal god comes back from the afterlife through your speaker system is just so rock and roll, so metal. Of course the protagonists name is Eddie…like Eddie Van Halen or that character from the Iron Maiden album covers? So, as you can see, there’s lots of heavy metal references everywhere. Finally, the ending was awesome, a heavy metal concert in a High School Halloween Party! Sweet! The kids all dig the heavy metal, but suddenly bam! It all turns against them and Curr starts blowing kids away with supernatural electricity coming out of his guitar? I thought it was strange how he lives for rock and roll but then blasts away his audience? That didn’t make much sense to me, but whatever, logic was never in the cards while watching this movie. This is definitely the best of all these heavy metal horror movies! Glad I finally got to watch it. Highly recommend it if you want to go back to the 80’s, heavy metal style! By the way, I didn't know this until I watched this movie, but toilette water is deadly for evil demonic heavy metal singers, thought you might want to know that. This movie is hilarious, had a blast with it.

Rating: 4  out of 5


Bob Ignizio said...

Believe it or not, as a teenage metal head/horror fan in the 80s, I kind of went out of my way to avoid this whole subgenre because it all looked too cheesy. Because like the protagonist of this film, I took my metal (and my horror movies) a bit too seriously. Of course now the cheesiness is exactly why I enjoy stuff like 'Trick or Treat'.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, I probably enjoyed this movie more now, then if I had seen it when it was originally released, the whole nostalgia factor kicked in pretty strongly, I mean, LP's, listening to music on cassette, that whole heavy metal feeling...the high pitched all came back to me...but aside from that, the movie was a blast.

Cindy said...

Let Me In..

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