Sometimes with ’80s movies, you kind of had to see them at the time to appreciate them. You try showing a twenty year old something like The Thing and there will be a chance that they just won’t get it. The days of practical effects are long gone and films can date pretty heavily.
Well, with Trick or Treat, I actually did see this film in the ’80s and wrote it off as being a bit rubbish. Almost thirty years later, the film showed up on UK television (on the Horror Channel) and rather unwisely I decided to watch it late into the early hours. Surprisingly, it’s a lot better than I gave it credit for.
Trick or Treat tells the story of a young metalhead, Eddie Weinbauer, a social outcast in his school who is devastated to find out that his hero, a rock star called Sammi Curr who came from the same school as him, has died in a fire. To make matters worse, he is being bullied at school by Tim Hainey (played by one of the husbands from Desperate Housewives) and his arsehole mates.
A local rock DJ friend of Eddie’s (played by Gene Simmons, bassist of US rock band Kiss) surprises him though by giving him a vinyl pressing of Sammi’s last album. The only copy in existance and Eddie soon realises the album is communicating with him directly and promising revenge on Tim and pretty much the rest of the school.
After some near-death encounters, Eddie realises that Sammi’s spirit is contained within the music and is causing all the trouble. Eddie wants out but Sammi is kind of a dick and eventually finds his way out into the world where he uses electricity to control cars and machines and also as a weapon. This film came out the same year as Big Trouble in Little China and shares some very similar effects to those that we saw on Lightning, our favourite of the Three Storms.
Of course, being an ’80s movie, Sammi eventually goes to the school end of year dance and decides to play a show. During his guitar solo he decides to add a few stage effects by shooting bolts of electricity out of his guitar, depleting his audience somewhat.
The final battle between Eddie and Sammi is a satisfying conclusion though and worth checking out. I won’t spoil what happens.
Trick or Treat is unusual because essentially the film is Christine (it even has a car going mad in it). You’ve got exactly the same concepts throughout. Outcast kid is getting bullied, finds a supernatural force to even the odds a bit, gets overly confident, supernatural force starts wanting more and more destruction. The only difference is that where Arnie had a sweet car, Eddie has a guitarist with ridiculous hair.
Interestingly, the film’s use, and obvious love for, hard rock music is both a strength and a weakness. One the one hand it adds some humour, character and passion to the story (the Ozzy cameo as an outraged metal-hater is hilarious) but also dates the film as I’m pretty sure that no-one finds men in skintight leather trousers with too much hairspray even slightly threatening these days.
As dated as the film can be, the suspense and horror elements are pretty well-realised and this is an entertaining horror movie that sticks to all the genre conventions.
It has some issues though. Eddie is pretty much a hugely dislikable character, mainly because he’s just so sullen and everyone hates mullets. The film spends a long time spelling out just how much of an outcast he is, which is a waste as I’d rather see a lot more of Sammi tearing shit up. But when Sammi starts killing at the gig, it’s worth the wait. Even if the film is essentially Carrie at that point.
Trick or Treat is definitely worth a watch for you thirty and forty-something horror fans and a fun reminder of just how bad hard rock was in the ’80s.