Trick or Treat (1986)
WRITER: Story by Rhet Topham
Screenplay by Michael S. Murphey, Joel Soisson, Rhet Topham
DIRECTOR: Charles Martin Smith
STARRING: Marc Price as Eddie Weinbauer
Tony Fields as Sammi Curr
Lisa Orgolini as Leslie Graham
Doug Savant as Tim Hainey
Gene Simmons as Nuke
Ozzy Osbourne as Rev. Aaron Gilstrom
QUICK CUT: When heavy metal superstar Sammi Curr dies suddenly, his biggest fan gets ahold of a unique copy of Sammi's final album, triggering a series of events that will lead to his idol's ressurection.
Eddie/Ragman - Our hero, a rock and roll fan who idolises Sammi Curr a bit too much, and is shaken to his very core upon his death. Eddie is your typical geeky fan who loves something a little too much. The consumate outsider, fighting to not belong while always wishing he could, and is very much the sort of character you'd expect to see in a movie about demonising rock music.
Sammi Curr - A fellow graduate of the school Eddie goes to, and a symbol of success from such humble beginnings, he's also a little bit Satanic, and a lot dead shortly into the movie. But that's okay! He pulls a Horace Pinker and wreaks havoc via electrical signals for most of the movie. But with far less style and meance.
Leslie - The girl Eddie has a crush on, and she's actually pretty receptive to his affections, despite the impending scorn from her peers. She is a rare provider of support for Eddie, which also puts her in the crosshairs of Sammi Curr.
THE GUTS: Well, we start out solidly enough with the credits rolling over a prayer to Satan for life, knowledge, and vengeance, in return for a soul. Which is probably an explanation for how this movie got made, huh?
Once the movie is done offering up its soul to the demons of Hollywood, we meet our main character *ahem* Ragman. He loves heavy metal music, and often writes to his fave, Sammi Curr, in his journal. Raggedy Mandy lays out his philosophy pretty straightforwardly, and it's about what you would expect from someone like him; he hates the establishment, the 'brain deads and the airheads' as he calls his fellow students, and all he cares about is the girl of his dreams, Leslie.
There's a pretty decent bullying montage as Raggedy wanders through the halls of his high school, and it ends with him coming out of the gym showers, find people going through his locker, and shoving him out into the gym after taking his towel. To top things off, Leslie is there, and the other girls take some handy Polaroids. I'd say this effectively sets up his justification for hating everyone.
Anyone who knows anything about heavy metal and shock rock should not be surprised to learn that Sammi Curr is very controversial, and blamed for all the ills in the world, especially anything to do with kids and violence. Some things never change, eh? I gotta give the movie credit for doing this story during the height of all this sort of hysteria with the evils of rock and roll, violence on tv, and Dungeons & Dragons.
But then the icing on the cake comes, as Ragman is listening to people complain about the evils of music on the tv, but then finds out that its all because his hero, died in a hotel fire. As if things could not get any worse for Ragman.
Ragman heads to work at the local radio station where his DJ friend Gene Simmons...er, Nuke, gives him a little talk about Sammi. Eddie, as normal people refer to Ragman, won't listen to anyone trying to tear down his god, and is convinced that Sammi's death is all some weird plot, or at least he was pushed to kill himself.
To try and cheer Ragman up, Nuke shows him the last recording of Sammi's, that they'll premiere on Halloween. Its the only pressing of the recording, a one of a kind artifact, and he gives it to the kid.
After running into Leslie at school, and being invited to a pool party that night, Eddie decides to go, and that goes over about as well as you can expect. Before he even finds her, he runs into the braindead and airheads again, and they want him out of there. With a little added salt in the wound by asking him why he can't just be normal? Oh, how this movie suddenly speaks to me.
They shove a handy barbell weight into his backpack, then toss him into the pool. If not for Leslie saving him, this may very well have been a short movie.
With that, Eddie heads home to listen to his unique record, declaring vengeance upon everyone at the pool party. Again, still shockingly relevant to today.
He dozes off while listening, and has visions of Sammi's fiery hotel room, complete with Sammi chanting in a backmasked voice, and burning people dancing around him.
The next day finds Eddie in the cafeteria and he confronts his attackers from the night before, with the added indignity of being called Aquaman. Now, that is just not fair to Aquaman. He is still WAY cooler than Eddie! But Ragman takes the slur and shoves Tim's lunch in his face, and then bravely runs away.
Now, they show Eddie setting up a few things before this, and I'm not sure if they were just badly thought out ideas by the movie makers, or if they're supposed to be deliberately lame because Eddie's a goober. But putting a chair in the way you're going to run, and a mop bucket to make a spill so your pursuers trip for five whole seconds is a terrible plan.
And the plan just gets weirder as Eddie somehow loses them, which makes them grab a fire extinguisher and pounce into a room spraying it down, thinking they're getting Eddie, but instead hitting the teachers in their lounge. A strange plan indeed, and one over reliant on happenstance...
Later, Eddie is playing the record's hidden messages to his friend, convinced that the messages are for him and him alone, telling Eddie how to take down his enemies. But really, "Let the big fish hook themselves, you are the bait" is terribly vague, as Eddie's friend points out.
Roger heads out after a healthy dose of Ragman's crazy, leaving Eddie to play with his records. He may just be on to something though, when the record decides to call out to Ragman by name.
Eddie follows his new demonic master's orders and heads to the shop class the next day. It's not long before the guys he made a fool out of show up for a healthy dose of revenge. Ahh, the cycles of violence.
Tim starts throwing Ragman around like his namesake, then starts throwing tools at the kid. Remember Eddie, if you can dodge a ball, you can dodge a wrench!
But the evil forces of evil take hold when Tim leans over to grab something else to fling at the kid, and his tie gets caught in a machine that suddenly springs to life. He cries out for help as the metal press comes closer and closer to his eyeball, and Eddie barely has enough time to stop it.
There's a brief scene where Eddie's mom is putting his laundry away, and like any good mother, snoops around her kid's belongings. She becomes visibly worried at the gory, adult images on his record collection. The radio sparks to life, very loudly, and things start falling and bursting. Fortunately, she doesn't get killed off for nothing more than being a concerned parent.
Eddie makes a copy of the evil record and gives it to Tim as a peace offering, and the tape skips along its coincidental way to Tim's girlfriend, the one who asked Eddie why he can't be normal.
As she listens to the tape, the headphones start farting out green mist that actually possesses the power to take off her clothes. Man, I could use that stuff, it would make crashing in bed so much easier.
She enjoys the fondling hands of the mist and probably has a better orgasm than Tim ever gave her. But eventually she wonders what's going on, opens her eyes, and sees a giant green beast sitting atop her.
Tim comes running at her screams, but finds her just laying there in his car, and the headphones melted to her ears. He's not as dumb as he looks though, and sees the special tape from Eddie, and has a strong suspicion what happened.
Now, what I want to know is...would the green mist do the same things to Tim if HE had listened to it? Because picturing what I just saw happening to a guy, with no difference at all in its actions, would be especially hilarious.
Oh. Oh my Lloyd.
From that, the movie goes to Eddie's mom working out and watching tv, listening to some talk show, where the guest is an evangelist and moral crusader against the dangers of heavy metal.
Played by Ozzy Osbourne.
Talk about casting against type. He plays it perfectly straight, and I'm sure he had encounters with plenty of people like this, even by the mid-80s, so knew exactly how to play it. My sole complaint is, even back then he's occasionally pretty unintelligible. But it's mostly okay.
So that's when Tim shows up to yell at Ragman, and we find out that his girlfriend is miraculously still alive. Which is a bummer, since we're halfway through this movie, and bodies have yet to start dropping, save for Sammi's.
Tim tells Eddie to just stay away, since he's not about to go up against the forces of Satan and heavy metal music. I love the added touch of Eddie's pumpkins spouting flames as a warning.
Even Ragman is starting to freak out about all this, and he demands the record tell him what is going on. It reminds him that he DID kinda say he wanted to 'nail them all'. But on the other hand, he's doing a pretty crap job of it, isn't he?
But even with Ragman trying to get out, the record keeps pulling him back in by threatening to harm Leslie. Eddie still tries to not get involved, but the evil genie is out of the vinyl bottle. Things get worse when Eddie's mom wants to know what all the yelling is, and the record immitates his voice to invite her in.
He gets his mom to go away, but when Eddie tries to unplug his equipment, he unfortunately has to contend with the ghost in the equalizer, and even unplugged the devices still have a life of their own. All culiminating in an explosion and Sammi Curr rising up out of the Billboard charts.
Sammi makes some mild threats, and rolls his eyes at Reverend Ozzy and actually kills him through the tv, before disappearing. Eddie's mom returns, and before anything else can go wrong, the kid takes a baseball bat and goes all mafia on his equipment.
That ends up with Ragman getting totally grounded. He calls Roger up and asks him if he can get the shiny tape of doom back from Tim, and destroy it before any more mischief occurs.
Roger is surprisingly effective at getting the tape back, but he's terrible at directions, instead choosing to listen to the tape. Sammi's spark goes all Horace Pinker on the place though, and the electronics go haywire as the slightly crispy rocker's corpse appears.
He turns on the tv with the power of his mind, hears people reporting Ozzy's death, and one of the anti-metal people is lamenting it, so Sammi reaches in and pulls her out, charring her in the process. With the added weirdness that her corpse is the size of a person on a tv, which...is weird.
Roger gets told by the ghost of rocker's past to play his tape at midnight or else, so he brings it to the Halloween dance at school. He coulda just played it anywhere, but go big or don't go at all, I guess.
Leslie calls up the grounded Ragman to see where he is, and he hears the music playing in the background. Knowing what Roger did, he breaks the rules and drives off to the school gym.
But Sammi has other ideas, and pulls a few tricks from Christine's playbook and takes over the car, taking Eddie for a joyride through the park and down the sidewalks.
Meanwhile, at the school dance, they stop Sammi's tape and bring on the live music act. Sammi doesn't like that idea, so reaches out from the speaker, kills the singer, and takes the guy's place, making his triumphant ressurection complete. But wait, will the band know any of his songs??
I love that the students in the crowd don't think it's Sammi, and is instead just an impersonator, even saying he's better than the real Sammi. Now now, do not insult the evil electricity demon.
Then Sammi proves all the worst fears true, when he starts blasting the audience with electricity from his guitar, making them explode. Oh no! Rock and roll really IS deadly!!
Finally, some long overdue carnage as Sammi kills off, by my count, eight people, including an exploding Humpty Dumpty, and the poor band's drummer. I guess they're a solo act now, huh?
Eddie arrives at long last, way too late, but just in time for Tim to go harass Leslie in the bathroom. It's a nice twist to have him try and show concern, and SAY he doesn't want to see her hurt, but then they go and torpedo that whole idea when in the next scene Tim has her pushed up against the wall and is forcing himself upon her. Mixed misogynistic messages, man.
Ragman finds and destroys the tape, but considering Sammi's little rampage, I think we're way past that. Sending Roger to go turn off the breaker box will probably be more effective.
Eddie runs around trying to find Leslie, but finds Tim instead, and then the rocker from beyond the grave finds them both. Sammi shoves Tim up against the ceiling, and electrocutes him.
He then runs into Leslie, and they find the breaker box just in time for midnight to strike, and for Sammi to find them once more. Roger turns up with a crowbar to try and get the locked box open, even though it's seemingly too late.
Roger wants to make up for what he's done, to do one thing right, and hey! You wrote some of the BEST X-Files episodes, man! You did plenty right!! Well, you also did Final Destination, and I'm not so cool with that...
But anyways, Roger shoves the crowbar into the breaker box, short circuiting things, and sacrificing himself. I...am oddly touched by this moment. It's a pretty hefty thing, and self sacrifice is a rare thing in horror movies. The only way it would've been better is if they'd comitted to his demise and not have him miraculously survive. Talk about a trick rather than a treat.
The police shown up eventually, and take some very baffling statements. It amuses me that they assume the people telling them that it was Sammi Curr killing people drank some spiked punch...when it's Halloween. It could be, I dunno, a guy in costume??
But the best part is the people in silly costumes being wheeled into ambulances. Nice juxtaposition, movie.
And for some reason, someone sees Eddie and shouts out, "There he is! There's Eddie! That's the guy!" which makes the police naturally start chasing him. But...but the guy who did what? He didn't arrive until afterwards, he didn't DO anything, and he doesn't look a thing like Sammi to be mistaken for him! So why the panic?? I mean, sure, it's one of Tim's friends, but that's still a stretch, and a pretty dick move.
Leslie and Eddie pause to clue her in on the plot, and Eddie says Sammi only appears when they play the record, and he's destroyed all the copies. Leslie assumes that means its over, and Eddie thinks so too, but with 15 minutes left, I'm gonna guess that's a big old nopetrain.
And the plot dutifully thickens when Ragman remembers that Nuke has a copy at the radio station, with plans to play it during the midnight Halloween tribute to the rocker.
The movie kinda spins its wheels here as the clock is at 11:59, Eddie can't get a call through to the station, and decides they need to drive there, but in Eddie's mom's car. Um...if they want to stop the recording, they are way too late to even try. Call, run, find car, drive, get into the station, stop the recording, all in a minute? Yeah, no. I guess they still have time to stop the recording from completing, and can make sure it never plays again, but we've pretty much devolved into running around to beat an already expired clock.
With the added complication of the cops trying to find the kids, it just feels like too much is in the way, and it's already too late, by the movie's own rules. So that's when Sammi returns, and a cop tries to stop him with a taser. Sammi shows him what real electricity is though and makes him go poof.
The kids reach Ragman's house, but all the radios start popping on, and Eddie takes a bat to each and every one, while he sends Leslie to his room to find his keys. And conveniently forgetting the portable radio he has in the bathroom. Which is naturally the only place left to find the keys.
And of course, that's when Sammi appears. He burns through the bathroom door, but Eddie manages to trip him up, and get the rocker's hand to land in the toilet. Which is not good for Zzax here. With the added indignity of Eddie flushing. I'll admit, that's the most unique way of dealing with a horror movie monster. It doesn't get rid of him for good, but it does delay him enough for the kids to escape.
They get the car started but oops! The radio was on, so Sammi goes all From a Buick 8 again, and drives the car away before the kids can use it. Fortunately, they have an abandoned police car sitting there. I'm sure Officer Crispyfried won't mind if they borrow it. And it's another nice touch to have them use the sirens to get through traffic faster.
Eddie arrives at the station and grabs a radio driving off to lure Sammi out from protecting the last copy of the tape, and leaving Leslie behind to grab it once he does.
It takes a lot of taunting, and some very fast and dangerous driving, but Sammi finally takes the bait and appears in the backseat of the cop car. Another nice touch to use the protective cage to stop the electric demon like a Faraday cage.
Eddie drives the cop car off the bridge, tying together the toilet flush, and Sammi almost doing the same to Eddie earlier, while Leslie does her thing and destroys the tape once the coast is clear. That's some pretty smart thinking, and a decent enough ending to a decent enough flick. And no sequel bait as Eddie heads back to the station, gets the girl, and puts some tunes on the radio, yay!
Video: It could be better, but it's also not terrible. It's mostly just too soft with poor colours, but is better than most.
Audio: Also nothing great, but it gets the job done. The only thing unintelligible is a few words of Ozzy, but that's freakin' normal. The pretty decent rock soundtrack would've been great in a fuller sound space, but it's still pretty rockin' as is.
Sound Bite: "No wimps! No false metal!" demands Sammi's evil record, when Ragman says he's tired of hurting people.
1 - I reluctantly count Sammi's burned-off-screen corpse
2 - Reverend Gilstrom suffers a stroke thanks to Sammi's touching a tv. Riight. But hey, an actual 'on screen' death after 52 minutes.
3 - Sammi kills Mrs. Cavell by yanking her through a tv and charring her to a crisp as a teeny corpse. Things just got weirder.
4 - Lame band's lead singer gets facepalmed by Sammi.
5-12 - All the people that get blasted by Sammi's guitar of doom at the dance.
13 - Tim's head goes boom with a giant blast of electricity.
14 - Sammi fries a cop's bacon.
15 - Sammi finally meets his own secondary demise in water.
Best Corpse: Oh, Roger. You coulda had this if your sacrifice was real. But no, instead the award goes to Mrs. Cavell's teeny charcoal body. However the heck THAT works.
Blood Type - F: There's very little blood, and the few makeup effects we get are scars on Sammi, and Cavell's corpse. There's a little gooeyness from the headphones on Tim's girlfriend's ears, and that's it.
Sex Appeal: Tim's girlfriend gets groped and disrobed by Slimer, and Leslie's out of her Halloween costume briefly to get into more functional clothes.
Movie Review: I mostly enjoyed this. The sound of it made it sound a bit too comedy, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the funny was at a minimum and more from the situations than any real wackiness to be wacky. The story is good, even if it ends up spinning its wheels a lot towards the end. The plot makes sense, and it's well shot. As a movie, this mostly works, and it has the added bonus of some social commentary by poking fun at the "Rock music is evil, it gives in to devil worship, and backmasking is actually evil incantations to Satan himself!" They never really go anywhere with that beyond a setup for carnage though, and the movie clearly could have been more. Still, it's nice to use as a topic, and ultimately the fanboy isn't villified, outside of people in the movie THINKING he's evil, but ultimately proving to be the hero. I can get behind all of that. Three out of five wee corpse briquettes.
Entertainment Value: Trick or Treat actually manages to be pretty fun. Gene Simmons and Ozzy are a treat to see slipping through the movie, although I wish they played more of a role. You almost start to like Eddie, and if you're like me, and can empathise with that outsider fanboy type that everyone thinks is weird, even moreso. The humour is fun, Sammi is wonderfully over the top, although he's no Horace Pinker. The worst thing for this movie is the existence of Shocker. It does everything better. It's more over the top, it's got a better story, better characters, and sells its reality way better. But this one does have the unique take of the evils of rock and roll going for it. But still, this movie is so much like Shocker, it hurts. Which reminds me, I wonder if we'll ever play another round of Spot the Ted Raimi? Someday, maybe. But I digress! The movie is pretty decent in its own right, hits a lot of fun points, and gets three out of five copies of Sammi Curr's final record.
Fun Fact! I make the jokes a few times, but yes indeed, Roger is played by Glenn Morgan, who would find real fame in pairing up with James Wong to become the best known X-Files writers, creators of Final Destination, and Space: Above & Beyond. ...Okay, no one remembers him for that last one.