Trick or Treat
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Written by Joel Soisson, Michael S. Murphey
Starring Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne, Marc Price, Tony Fields
So a while back, when our own Wil Forbis came pounding on my lead-lined front door, I greeted him in the standard fashion: with a mallet. Following several apology mint juleps, Wil then asked if I could review a movie that had something to do with music for the special themed issue of Acid Logic he was putting together.
I told him that direct to video movies didn't do a lot of talking about music these days, ever since the moral panic over heavy metal pretty much faded out after about 1990 and put a kibosh on rock-based horror flicks. That and no one wanted to read my review of "Repo! The Genetic Opera" because it'd be a string of obscenties so long and unbroken that it would catch monitors on fire. Admonishing me to do what I could in the interest of keeping the theme alive, Wil then set on his way, leaving me to wonder what to review. And then I thought, why not go back to those grand old days of heavy metal moral panic and cover one such title, "Trick or Treat"?
So I did.
"Trick or Treat" introduces us to heavy-metal mush-brain and high school failure Eddie Weinbauer, a young man who's recently discovered that a major metal figure--one Sammi Curr--actually went to his high school. Enthused by the development, Eddie drops Sammi a letter--this was pre-email, after all--and discovers that he's just a bit too late as Curr recently died in a hotel fire. Miserable, Eddie makes a shocking find, the only-known copy of Curr's last album: "Songs in the Key of Death." When young Eddie plays the album backward, he gets a shock as Sammi Curr starts talking to him directly, from beyond the grave. Curr offers advice to improve young Eddie's life, but it doesn't take long until the advice turns sinister. With Curr himself poised to make a grand re-entrance and make "Songs in the Key of Death" go into wide release, it's up to Eddie to stop his former hero from turning the immediate vicinity into a teenage wasteland.
This is an excellent representation of the kind of thing people were genuinely afraid of back in the eighties. Certain breeds of music were considered outright satanic and in many cases banned or burned in large gatherings. That music--or any other--sometimes had a detrimental effect on its consumer isn't in dispute, but the risks were always much smaller than anyone suspected. Of course, it's also noteworthy to see the impact that bullying had even back then. It's different these days, thanks to events like Columbine, and seeing it in an era when kids summoned up horrors from beyond to do their dirty work rather than the horrors of an unlocked gun cabinet is an eye-opening point in itself.
Leaving aside the historical significance of this little romp through the eighties, this is also full-on standard fare for eighties horror. This is the kind of thing that was fairly routinely done; replace Sammi Curr with Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger or Charles Lee Ray and the end result is pretty much exactly the kind of thing that was constantly playing back then.
If you've never seen this kind of thing before, then I do recommend it. It will look downright novel against a lot of the effects-laden splattery stuff we get these days, down to the big hair and cassette tapes. If you're already familiar, then you've probably already seen this one. It's certainly good enough for a viewing, and though it's riding a lot of cliches, it's actually one of the original progenitors of these cliches.
The ending is par for the course for this sort of movie, so while it won't break any new ground as far as we're concerned, it was fairly well groundbreaking for its time.
There are no special features included on this particular DVD, a sad development but fairly likely given its era.
"Trick or Treat" works well on several levels. It's a reasonably good piece of filmmaking on its own, but it also shows us not only what movies looked like back in the eighties, as well as a look at what people were gravely concerned about back then as well. Though the ill effects of heavy metal never materialized in the forms envisioned by the films of the era and the nightmares of those who crusaded against it, the movies left behind prove to still be quite watchable today.