Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: Eddie is a heavy metal rocker in high school who’s obsession with heavy metal, hair metal and plain ol’ rock n’ roll matches his intelligence, yet fails to protect him from being estranged by his peers. All of the jocks, athletes and their preppie girl friends find every chance to embarrass him in various ways, despite a few sympathies he gets from some of the girls. Regardless, Eddie makes rock his life until his favorite rock musician Sammi Curr dies in a hotel fire over night. Thankfully, Eddie is friends with the town’s rock radio station DJ Nuke who, in memory of Sammi, gives Eddie an unreleased album that Nuke intended on playing up-coming Halloween night. At first, the album does little to ease Eddie’s feeling of loss and having little association with one of the sympathetic preppie girls Leslie, who’s attempts to have him be a part of the crowd backfire from her boyfriend’s pranks.

However, when Eddie fortuitously plays the record backwards, the cryptic voice of Sammi Curr emanates from the record, giving Eddie advice, guiding him into actions of revenge upon his tormentors in chaotic, but helpful premonitions. Unfortunately, as the record is copied on to tape, Sammi’s spirit starts getting malevolent and is eventually released from the record to reveal a plan of devastating proportions, one that Eddie won’t have a part of. Now Eddie is entrusting his only friends and his own wits to destroy every copy of Sammi’s unreleased album, before the innocent suffer from the evil fist of a rocker spirit gone off his rocker!

The Review
Being a child of the eighties, there’s always going to be a place in my heart for various media objects of the era, even the widely clichéd teen angst film with a horror twist (hence Trick or Treat). There were many clichés to spot in the movie, but with the average direction coupled with the chaotic string of various circumstances, Trick or Treat is a decent attempt at an evil rock n’ roll movie. There was a point where I seriously thought it was going to take an Urotsukidoji turn as the teen characters are threatened by an evil spiritual force, almost to the point of death-by-Shop Class.

The cinematography is surprisingly good as we get a lot of wide-open shots of different areas around the school, character’s homes and neighborhoods, pretty good close-ups and not a lot of padding. Plus, the scenes are very well lit and lucid even in the darkest of scenes; there’s a lot of good cold and warm lighting effects in some of the atmospheric scenes. There are a few shots that linger a bit too long, like the sequence where Eddie’s friend Roger gets the tape back from a jock’s car.

The special effects in the movie were actually quite convincing regardless of them being contextually minimalist. There’s barely any gore effects, but other effects such as the back-seat monster and the stereo equipment that becomes possessed (a la Videodrome) are both pretty good. The shop class scene and the scene where Sammi is resurrected mark the moments where some of the best effects are used in the flick. Honestly, as far as atmosphere goes, the movie does get a little creepy at times and it is through simple stuff too. There are quite a few moments of stillness that left me sitting in my seat wide-eyed wondering what’s going to happen next.

While the craft work is pretty good all round, there are a few flops you can notice like when a red boom mike bobs into one shot or how one shot of a girl’s bra pops into the frame on her shoulder after it’s been taken off. The tongue of the aforementioned monster has a visible wire below it, but at first glance it kind of looks like a sliver of drool so it kind of works. The music is appropriate for the film as it mostly consists of some original rock songs that were fitting for the scenes and emoted the appropriate feelings for the scenes as well. Oddly enough there are some more ambient and industrial songs too, but the Master Volume to them are turned down so far, they’re barely audible.

Unfortunately I can’t say too much about the acting as everyone seems really average and mildly bored throughout. Some of the roles were a little bit convincing like the depressed yet vigil Eddie played by Marc Price of Family Ties fame; he wasn’t charismatic, but he was likable. If any character seemed a tad incredulous in Trick or Treat, it had to have been Sammi because he never elucidated on his motives of spiritual chaos. As a rocker, it’s easy to assume that Sammi’s actions were all a different form of rebellion against conformity, though in a far more progressive and reprehensibly chaotic fashion, though we never get such an explanation. He’s just evil.

I briefly stated that there’s a creepy shop class scene, but unfortunately no one dies in that scene. Sadly, the death scenes in the movie are really toned down near the end in a tragically comedic fashion that leaves results similar to death scenes in The H-Man. Barely any one dies until the big High School Halloween jam, but when they do they get zapped by electricity, evaporate and their steaming clothes fall to the floor. If it weren’t for some rather delicious brief nudity in the back-seat of an Oldsmobile, this movie probably would’ve gotten a PG rating. Hell, the most graphic death scene features a kid in a Humpty Dumpty costume exploding!

Which, I should digress a little bit: now that I mention the Halloween party, it was funny noticing just how stupid some of the costumed kids were. Not only were most of them out of costume, but one girl dressed up as a pregnant woman (?) and the other dressed up in a box of Special K! If only Brenda Song showed up during the zapping in a pear costume, maybe then we wouldn’t have to hear repetitive grocery store radio ads about pears around Halloween any more!!

I might as well mention the performances of both Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne in the movie. On the DVD cover, they’re both featured as though they’re starring in it, both of which feature shots of them outside the movie and even without stage make-up. Really, they’re just cameos; unless you’re used to seeing them in everyday clothes, you might not even recognize them. The two of them are pretty good in the movie with Gene playing a wise, but rockin’ DJ and Ozzy as a prudish, rock-hating reverend.

I think what gets to me the most about this movie is that its DVD edition has very little Extras to its menu. However, the back of the DVD edition features three production stills with one of the back-seat monster being assembled, one of Sammi’s make-up being applied and one of the more awkward death scenes shot from another angle. Apparently, this movie has Extras more elusive than that of The Deadly Spawn… Also, I refuse to put up the DVD edition cover: you’ll notice I used the VHS edition partly because I love my VHS player and because the DVD edition is just embarrassing.

The Conclusion
I’m tempted to give this movie a 2 because it feels like what would happen if My Science Project lacked three kids fighting Romans, Mutants and Dinosaurs. With all due respect though, Trick or Treat is a fun, well-shot little Rock n’ Roll horror film, even if the horror is outright tame with little thrills halfway into the film brought by a silly antagonist. It’s an easy movie to scrutinize with its teen angst theme and sense of minimalism, but lame as it is, it’s not offensively lame or painful to sit through, it’s just not very violent. It’s certainly the kind of movie that you can enjoy playing in the background of a Halloween party… it was certainly more attention-grabbing than what the last party I went to was playing Ju-On.