Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: Trick or Treat (1986)

There are often things that simply go together rather seamlessly. Peanut butter and jelly, pancakes and syrup, fedoras and trenchcoats, they're all good combinations of things. Then there is heavy metal and horror movies, a match so perfect that it almost seems like one was made for the other. So, it's no big shock that many horror movies often feature heavy metal on their soundtracks, often even incorporating the music into the movie to either feature in a school dance, club scene, or even kill a Peter Pan themed vampire.

I wonder if "death by stereo" is covered by his insurance?

But, in my opinion, no movie did a better job of weaving these two things together than 1986's Trick or Treat. It is literally a film in which the plot centers directly on the popular headbanging music genre, and it is what I am here to talk about today. The story is all about Eddie Weinbauer, a metalhead who just so happens to live in a place where being such isn't very popular. It also doesn't help that he's not very threatening, so he's got a big target essentially painted directly on his ass. Eddie isn't just a fan or metal in general though, even though his room shows off a variety of posters from various bands. For him there is only one icon worthy of the genre, the highly controversial singer known as Sammi Curr. His hero not only serves as his music focus, but he also feels that he's very much like him since they went to the same school and he regularly writes letters to Sammi and they have an apparent friendship through their mutual experiences. As the movie opens we see him writing a letter to him. We also see a montage of Eddie being bullied at school, thus setting up a lot of the plot motivation. He finishes writing the letter and seals it in an envelope before heading downstairs where the news announces that Sammi died mysteriously in a fire while at his hotel.

I'm sure that ring of fire just happened by pure coincidence.
Eddie throws a bit of tantrum over losing his idol and then proceeds to destroy his room, tearing apart many of his posters and such until he stops at the poster of Sammi that hangs over his bed. At this point I feel perhaps Eddie's idol worship could either be a sign of latent homosexual urges or it could simply be that he looks to Sammi almost as a father figure, being that he doesn't have one. Either way, he's pretty messed up over his death and meets up with their mutual friend, Nuke (played by Gene Simmons), who DJs at the local radio station. Nuke tells him that he needs to try and cope with things, then shows him the only copy of Curr's last and only unreleased album, "Songs in the Key of Death", on an acetate disc. He tells him that he recorded a copy of it and plans to play it on Halloween night and that Eddie should keep the disc, as he feels Sammi would've wanted him to have it. Seeing how close Eddie and Sammi likely were, I can see where this is touching too. Sure, this is a B-movie, but it's little things like that that give me at least some emotional attachment to the characters, which helps a lot with the overall film.

Good poster art doesn't hurt either.
At school we see him hanging with his typical cliche 80s nerd friend, Roger, and he gets approached by the hot girl of the film, Leslie. She is really nice and, of course, one of the popular kids but it also seemingly unaware of the fact that said popular crowd might behave with hostility towards our young Eddie. She invites him to a pool party, which he goes to only to find she has not yet arrived and instead finds himself surrounded by his bullies and their bitchy girlfriends. After repeatedly being called creepy by one of them, likely simply because he's a metalhead and not a blonde-haired asshole (this is an 80s movie), one of the guys puts a weight in his backpack and shoves him into the pool. You know, because nothing is funnier than attempted murder. No really, they just tried to drown him, so I am fully invested in seeing these kids die.

Not that I wasn't already looking forward to a body count, but these cliche 80s jocks are just begging to die.

Eddie falls asleep at home while listening to the record and sees Sammi in the fire, seemingly performing some harmless satanic ritual, as heavy metal musicians do. He wakes up to the record skipping and notices the words sounding pretty non-word-like. This prompts him to play the record backwards, as everyone knows about hidden messages on records, but he gets something even more metal than that. He gets his hero speaking to him directly through the record. Of course, he's pretty damn excited about this. The message helps Eddie formulate a plan to get revenge on his bullies by letting them get themselves in trouble, and he tells he buddy Roger all about it. He doesn't believe him, of course, and Eddie turns once more to the record. Sammi gives him another message which results in him not only directly talking to him by name but also in the head bully nearly losing his head the next day. This freaks Eddie out a bit, but he's fine with it. That is until a tape he recorded of the record ends up putting the bitchy bully girlfriend in the hospital when she listens to it and some sort of demon (that may or may not be Sammi) rapes her.

Of course, it could be Gene Simmons with that tongue.
The bully confront Eddie about it, seeming to think he's the one to blame and tells him to stay away from him, obviously afraid and frustrated. Eddie himself is very unhappy about this turn of events and asks the record. Sammi responds that the plan is the make them all pay, which Eddie isn't down with, and Sammi confronts him directly by coming out of the stereo and killing a televangelist (played by Ozzy Osbourne) who was spouting off about the evils of heavy metal music on television. Eddie's almost girlfriend and his mother both get threatened by Sammi and Eddie ultimately destroys the record and all of his stereo equipment. But, remembering that the tape he made still exists, he calls up Roger to go get it from the bully's car. Roger, being the idiot he is, ignores his friend's pleas to destroy the tape and ends up face to face with Sammi. He's instructed to play the tape at the dance, which he does because when undead rockers tell you to do something you generally do.

As Sammi says, "you should be loyal to your heroes." Especially when they can fry you with electrical powers.
Sammi comes out of the tape and takes over the dance, providing a pretty bad-ass song and it's a pretty great show for everyone...until he starts killing people with those powers of his. That always spoils a concert. Well, some concerts, anyway. It probably wouldn't spoil a Gwar concert. Anyway, Eddie rushes to go save the day and the idiot bully makes moves on Leslie, because his girlfriend is broken and he's looking for a new model. Eddie tries to tell him what is happening, but bullies don't tend to do that, so Sammi shows up and murders him. Roger shows up in time to save the young hero and his almost girlfriend by nearly dying. He does so because he feels somehow responsible for all the death and destruction, almost like it's his fault the undead rocker is murdering the student body.

We all know society is to blame. And math teachers.
Eddie destroys the tape, but then remembers that it's not over as Nuke is still going to play the album on the radio. So, he and Leslie both head to the station where it is decided that she will go in a destroy the tape while he takes the stolen cop car and distracts Sammi by taunting him outright about his music sucking. That plans works, Leslie destroys the tape, Eddie drives the car (and Sammi) off a bridge, Roger is still huge dumb-ass, the bully is still dead, and we finish the story not knowing really whether Nuke is alive or dead, undoubtedly because Gene charged too much to film any more scenes.

Or perhaps that hat began eating his brain and he needed to bow out.

Overall, this is a pretty fun bit of heavy metal horror. It suffers from a lot of the 80s cliches many 80s films suffer from, but that's also something to enjoy. Many of us, myself included, enjoy these things. They were, while schlocky, very endearing parts of any 80s film and a big reason why so many people love these films even decades later. The acting was....ehhh...not horrible, but clearly B-movie quality. It's definitely better than SyFy's movies usually give us. The cameos from Gene and Ozzy were great additions to highlight that this is very much a horror film for the metal set. Ozzy's cameo was especially great, because I always love seeing televangelists getting mocked. The effects were, likes many films of this era, rather good. At least, better than constant CGI. Sammi looked and felt rather threatening, which can't be easy to accomplish when you're wearing ripped tight pants. The soundtrack is the true star of this film though, as the music of Fastway truly steals the show. It's the perfect accompaniment to the story and I feel it's has aged better than the movie by leaps and bounds.

Some looks just aren't as timeless as we once thought they were.
If you want a fun 80s horror flick with a great kick-ass soundtrack, I say you should go check this out. Odds are you'll enjoy it one way or another. It's a very 80s film, but that is often something that many horror fans adore. There was just something about that time period that really charmed a lot of people. I know I love it, but then again I grew up during it. Now, as I've got a lot of work still ahead of me, I'm clocking out. Until Sammi Curr holds his big comeback tour, I'll be here doing what I do best. Later days, bleeders.

Now go put on some pants.

No comments:

Post a Comment