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Heavy Metal and Horror Collide in 1986's "Trick or Treat"

I have a weakness for cheesy, "so bad they're good" low-budget horror, sci-fi, or action movies. I watch' em so you don't have to!

The misleading cover of the Platinum Disc DVD (2003) puts Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne front and center with their names above the title, even though they're only in the movie for about two minutes each.

The misleading cover of the Platinum Disc DVD (2003) puts Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne front and center with their names above the title, even though they're only in the movie for about two minutes each.

Trick or Treat (1986)

Starring: Marc Price, Tony Fields, Gene Simmons, Doug Savant

Directed by: Charles Martin Smith

Today I'd like to present a B-movie that I hold near and dear to my metal heart: 1986's headbanging Halloween hoot, Trick or Treat. This canny combination of '80s anti-rock hysteria and teen-horror hijinks was seemingly aimed directly at me in 1986, since I was a 16-year-old metal-obsessed nerd just like the film's protagonist, Eddie "Ragman" Weinbauer (Marc Price of Family Ties fame).

At the time Trick or Treat was made, Tipper Gore's P.M.R.C. watchdog group had convinced American parents that their kids' record collections were filled with "demonic" messages that could only be heard when played backward. Trick or Treat took that idea and blew it up to absurd proportions in an action/horror tale that's fairly light on scares, but loaded with fun for anyone who came of age during the Big Hair Decade.

The Story...

Eddie Weinbauer's love of obnoxious music and all-black clothing makes him a favorite target of ridicule by the preppie, skinny-tie wearin' "airheads and braindeads" who populate his high school. Eddie's musical idol is hometown hero Sammi Curr (Tony Fields), who attended the same high school as Eddie and went on to become a popular-but-controversial "Satanic" heavy metal star. The film opens with Eddie pouring his heart out to Sammi in a rambling fan letter, set against an effective collage of the abuses he goes through at the hands of his school's "beautiful people" on a daily basis.

Eddie's especially ticked off that Sammi's appearance at the school Halloween dance has been cancelled due to meddling by local PTA blue-noses and an anti-rock minister (Ozzy Osbourne, in an uber-ironic bit of stunt casting). He ends the letter by proclaiming his eternal allegiance to "Rock's Chosen Warrior," but before he has a chance to drop it in the mail, Eddie turns on the TV and learns that Sammi has been killed in a mysterious hotel-room fire.

The next morning, a grieving Eddie visits the local rock radio station, where the DJ "Nuke" (Gene Simmons of KISS fame), bestows upon him the ultimate gift: the lone copy of Sammi Curr's final, unreleased album (Songs in the Key of Death—yikes!). Imagine Eddie's surprise when he puts the LP on his turntable and finds out that by spinning it backward, he can communicate with the undead spirit of Sammi Curr himself! Inspired by the messages of encouragement from his idol, a newly-confident Eddie begins to turn the tables on his preppie tormentors at school, which attracts the interest of reluctant "mean girl" Leslie (Lisa Orgolini).

Unfortunately for Eddie, Sammi Curr has more than simple teenage pranks in mind. When Eddie realizes that Sammi plans to use him as a conduit for his Ultimate Revenge, he attempts to destroy the demonic record, which causes Sammi to return to the land of the living through his stereo speakers. The demonic rocker, now a crackling, leather-n-studs creature of electrical energy that resembles a cross between Alice Cooper and Freddy Krueger, snarls, "You should be loyal to your heroes, Eddie...they can turn on you," before he disappears into the night.

As Eddie races to his school's Halloween dance to rescue the imperiled Leslie, Sammi takes the stage to rock the assembled student body (and disintegrates a few of them with energy beams that emanate from his guitar, in a hilarious scene that's half Carrie, half Headbanger's Ball). The Final Battle between the demonic rocker and his fanboy takes place at an isolated radio station outside of town. Will good triumph over evil, or was Tipper right about Heavy Metal music all along?

"What Are You Afraid Of?"

I have to be honest: for a supposed "horror" film, Trick or Treat is light on gore and isn't very scary, but it's fast-paced, action-packed, and funny as hell. Marc "Skippy" Price is great as the put-upon Eddie, and he receives able acting support from Lisa Orgolini as his love interest Leslie, Glen Morgan as his nerdy buddy Roger, and future Melrose Place star Doug Savant as his preppie tormentor, Tim Hainey. Eighties metal fans and trivia geeks will note that the music of "Sammi Curr" heard throughout the film was performed by the cult hard-rock act Fastway, which featured former Motorhead guitarist 'Fast Eddie' Clarke.

Modern horror fans will probably find Trick or Treat unbearably cheesy, but if you still have fond memories of denim jackets, cassette tapes, and the Sony Walkman, this flick is a true time capsule. In my book, Trick or Treat ranks as the best out of the glut of similarly-themed, low-budget "heavy metal horror" films that appeared around this same time, like the infamous Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, the ridiculous Black Roses, and the execrable Hard Rock Zombies.

Unfortunately, despite its cult reputation among '80s metal fans and B-horror aficionados, Trick or Treat is hard to find on home video. The film was issued on DVD in 2003 by the budget label Platinum Disc Corporation, as a bare-bones, full-screen affair with no bonus features. Now out of print, copies of this edition now command collector's item prices on eBay (no, you can't have mine).

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Fans were hopeful for Sammi Curr's resurrection in 2006 when it was rumored that Anchor Bay was planning a 20th anniversary DVD, but that release was apparently cancelled due to hassles with music licensing. Hopefully the film's cult following will be rewarded with a new DVD sometime soon. Until then, interested parties might still be lucky enough to find a copy if they comb carefully enough through those bargain bins.

As Sammi Curr himself might say, "What are you afraid of? It's only rock and roll!"

"Sammi Curr": "Trick or Treat"

© 2011 Keith Abt


VendettaVixen from Ireland on February 09, 2012:

Thanks for the review, FatFreddysCat. I hadn't heard of this before today, but now I think I'll have to make a point to get my hands on a copy.

Really enjoyed the piece. Thanks for putting it together.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 16, 2011:

Thanx for stoppin' by, kmorg - all of the songs in the movie are definitely from Fastway. Eddie's character has posters of most of the other bands you mentioned in his room, but none of their music is in the movie.

kmorg on October 16, 2011:

Just a short note, FatFreddy: The movie was entitled Ragman in Germany, but I believe it was called Trick Or Treat everywhere else. I know it had the original title in Norway and Denmark.

My Scandinavian DVD versions say the soundtrack includes songs from Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, Anthrax, W.A.S.P. and Warrant. But I thought the entire soundtrack was all Fastway?

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 12, 2011:

Robwrite, as long as you have an appreciation for '80s hair metal and a tolerance for B-Horror cliche's, it's actually quite a hoot.

Rob from Oviedo, FL on October 12, 2011:

I've never seen this one. So many bad bargain basement films, so little time. It doesn't sound like I'm missing too much.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 12, 2011:

Hahaha, nice!! Unfortunately it's a little out of my area too, I'd love to see this flick on a big screen!

manny on October 12, 2011:

Too bad I live nowhere near this theatre, they are giving it a screening Oct 21 and 22

Skeelo from Scotland on October 11, 2011:

I love all of that stuff. I'm on it.

Manny on October 11, 2011:

I had no interest in seeing this movie til I read your review sounds like a fun little time capsule

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 11, 2011:

If you like '80s metal and cheesy horror then this flick is the perfect combo platter, Skeelo. Seek and enjoy!

Skeelo from Scotland on October 11, 2011:

Wasn't aware of this. It sounds interesting. I'm going to check it out.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 11, 2011:

Haha, sorry for the confusion Carl. I've seen "Trick 'R' Treat" too and it's a fun watch, but it has no connection whatsoever with "Trick OR Treat."

Carl on October 11, 2011:

Oh wait a minute, I thought this was "Trick 'R Treat", I'm sorry my bad :(... Still a great review though

Carl on October 11, 2011:

Hey! This is one of the movies I was going to do! Someone emailed me asking me to review this because apparently it is " bad it made me cry." I was able to find the movie on iTunes, so if anyone who reads your review is interested in watching it, but can not find it anywhere else, iTunes has it. But yeah great review as always FatFreddysCat. Vote Up, Useful, Awesome, and Interesting.

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