[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 24 – [Happy 35th Birthday!] Trick or Treat (1986)

Director: Charles Martin Smith
Cast: Marc Price, Tony Fields, Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne
Screenplay: Michael S. Murphey, Joel Soisson, Rhet Topham
98 mins. Rated R.

There’s an interesting yet undiscussed part of horror culture, beginning in the 80s, that I would call Rock Horror. It’s a combination of horror elements with a heavy influence on Rock n Roll, and it’s more of a loose sub-genre. Slumber Party Massacre II would likely fall under this umbrella, as would Black Roses or Rocktober Blood, but the one that seems to be earning that cult status more and more recently would be Trick or Treat, the feature directorial debut of actor Charles Martin Smith (Dolphin Tale, A Christmas Gift From Bob). Finding a copy of this film is not easy (musical rights issues have plagued many attempts to get the film on home video), but I was able to hunt one down, so let’s turn up the stereo and get bloody.

Eddie Weinbauer (Marc Price, Hell’s Bells, TV’s Family Ties) is an unpopular loner who has only ever felt a connection to his hard-rocking idol, Sammi Curr (Tony Fields, Dance Academy, Across the Moon). When Sammi Curr perishes in a mysterious hotel fire, Eddie is utterly shattered, but when he receives a copy of Curr’s unreleased final album, he becomes enamored with hearing the final new works of the late musician, but somethings not quite right with this record, and Eddie soon discovers that Sammi Curr is speaking to him from beyond the grave, and he’s not quite ready to move onto the afterlife.

Perhaps the greatest asset of this film is the special effects work of Kevin Yagher. Most of what’s on display is pretty cheaply done, and not all of it works, but this being a very early work by Yagher on a more minuscule budget, he stretches a lot of impressive effects work out of his pocketbook.

Sadly, Trick or Treat takes far too long to get going, and I was floundering searching for its magic. The film takes too much time setting up Eddie’s fascination with the musician and then immediately dispatches the rocker. Then, we spend so much time with searching for a plot until he acquires the record. I think the beginning of this film would’ve been better served had we been introduced to Sammi himself as a living, breathing character before his death in order to perhaps better understand his character when he returns from the dead. I’m not really sure what Sammi wants in his return. He lacks character in favor of style. Eddie is the other way, character with no style. Marc Price’s performance is lacking in anything memorable that I struggled to be interested in him as a protagonist. There’s just very little to cling to.

I really wanted to like Trick or Treat, but the finished product left me rather mixed. There’s some really cool stuff here, and I cannot fight anyone for loving this movie. I just found too many detractors, but it’s a film I still feel like revisiting next year, and, had they followed it up with a franchise, I think there’s enough here to enjoy, even if I was left wanting more.

-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of Charles Martin Smith’s A Dog’s Way Home, click here.

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