Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Trick or Treat (1986)

Remember back in the 1980s when various fundamentalist groups and the PMRC were warning us about the evils of rock music? Specifically, that it was possible to embed satanic messages into the music that would only be audible if the record were to be played backwards? And remember how most of us thought how stupid that idea was and how we laughed at the folks who ruined their turntables trying to find hidden meanings in their Milli Vanilli records? Well, it turns out that the joke was on us because TRICK OR TREAT is the movie that proves that the rumors were ALL TRUE.

Marc Price stars as Eddie Weinbauer, aka Ragman, a bullied teen whose one comfort in life is his devotion to heavy metal music, particularly the music of Sammi Curr (Tony Fields), who had previously escaped Eddies dead end hometown to become a rock god. When Sammi dies in a hotel fire, a devastated Eddie is given an advance copy of Sammi's final album, charmingly titled Songs in the Key of Death.  However, when Eddie plays the album he not only hears some of the worst heavy metal ever produced but also personal messages from Sammi instructing Eddie to take deadly revenge on the classmates torturing him (including a pre-MELROSE PLACE Doug Savant as a mean jock).  Soon Sammi goes from possessing Eddie's stereo to inhabiting any electrical appliance, from drills to TVs to cars (I think he controls them through the radio).  It's all part of Sammi's master plan which is set to culminate with a radio broadcast of the album at midnight on Halloween.  At that time Sammi's going to do...something really bad.  It's never made very clear but it'll be pretty unpleasant, I'm sure.  In any case, it's up to Eddie to stop the broadcast before all hell breaks loose.

You may have noticed that the plot to this film doesn't make a lick of sense.  I'd even go so far as to say that there isn't one logical event that happens in the course of the film.  Normally, this would be an impediment to one's enjoyment of the film but in the case of TRICK OR TREAT just the opposite is true.  As boneheaded as this film is most of the time it's never less than enjoyable, even though the audience is usually laughing at the film instead of with it. It's impossible not to love scenes such as Eddie smashing his possessed stereo with a baseball bat, explaining to his befuddled mother that he "wanted a new one."  And in case there was any doubt that this movie is a fantasy, the script has the cutest girl in school inexplicably fall for our dork hero in possibly the least convincing romantic subplot of all time. To cap it off, there are brief cameos by Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne to appease the heavy metal fanbase this film was supposedly appealing to.  In Ozzy's case, his roughly two minutes of screen time playing a fundamentalist minister amply shows why he never managed to have a movie career.

It might have been possible to make an effective horror film around the phenomenon of backwards masking but this isn't it.  I have to think that the producers always intended this film to be tongue in cheek rather than a serious horror film. Otherwise, why hire Skippy from FAMILY TIES as the  world's least threatening metalhead and then give the film to AMERICAN GRAFFITI's own Terry the Toad, Charles Martin Smith, as his directorial debut? Plus, Sammi Curr is really nothing more than Freddy Krueger with leather and eyeliner. Still, despite the bad casting, the unsure direction and complete lack of logic, this movie is great fun.  Lower your expectations and enjoy the film on its own terms and you're sure to have a good time.

Interesting casting note: Eddie's best friend is played by Glen Morgan, who would soon give up acting and find greater success as a producer on such shows as THE X-FILES as well as films like FINAL DESTINATION and the WILLARD remake.  

For more overlooked films and TV visit Todd Mason's blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hey...Charles Martin Smith is a man who knows how to handle the available material!