The two best things about the 1980s were the rip-roaring, sex driven hair metal bands and totally gnarly horror movies. Trick or Treat combined them both in one of the most infamous horror comedies of all time. Whether you like this film or not, one thing’s for sure… you will be talking about it.
Written by Rhet Topham (Freddy’s Nightmares TV series) and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’s Michael S. Murphey and Joel Soisson, Trick or Treat was directed by Charles Martin Smith (The Untouchables 1987) with music co-composed by Sinister’s Christopher Young and the band Fastway. The story itself is about metalhead Eddie Weinbauer (Mark Price), who is bullied by Tim Hainey (Doug Savant) and idolizes Sammi Curr (the late Tony Fields), a mega-rock star who went to the same high school that Eddie does. The teen feels like he knows Sammi through his music, but town DJ Nuke (Gene Simmons) warns Eddie that he doesn’t know Sammi or what he’s capable of. Eddie’s mom, Angie (Elaine Joyce), wants him to get a hobby or do something with his life. Even the nerdiest of Eddie’s nerdy friends, Roger (Glen Morgan), says that Eddie needs to give up the Sammi obsession.
Then things all go to hell for Eddie when he finds out that Sammi died in a ritualistic Satanic fire. DJ Nuke sees how distraught Eddie is and hands him Sammi’s unreleased record as a gift to carry on his memory. Eddie tries the old “playing the record backwards” trick and, sure enough, the ghost of Sammi inhabits the record. At first, Sammi has Eddie terrorize Tim and his gang as revenge, but then he gets more sinister as the movie progresses. Eventually, he takes human form through electricity and must be stopped by Eddie, his crush, Leslie (Lisa Orgolini), and Roger.
The plot isn’t going to win any awards, but I have to admit, the casting is the most bizarre. Back in 1986, Mark Price was known as the nerdy Skippy from the popular show Family Ties. If anything, he should have played the dorky Roger and someone else should have been Eddie. Gene Simmons from KISS was originally offered the role of Sammi, but he didn’t want to be an undead rocker. In real life, he was a big fan of Wolfman Jack, one of the most legendary disc jockeys in American history, so he accepted the role of DJ Nuke as a tribute to Wolfman. Also close to getting the role was W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless, but he wanted W.A.S.P. to do the soundtrack. Director Charles Martin Smith said he already had the band Fastway available to do the soundtrack. Blackie’s ego was bruised and he said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
At the time, Tony Fields was known more as a dancer than as an actor, but he played the role of Sammi to perfection, even if Gene and Blackie were the original choices. Doug Savant was an up and coming actor, eventually landing starring roles on Melrose Place in the 90s and more recently in Desperate Housewives. He played the role of Tim very well, probably one of the best casting decisions made out of all of them. A few, familiar faces make cameos, such as Ozzy Osbourne playing a televangelist (yes, I’m serious) and Alice Nunn, otherwise known as Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
The strength of the movie is in its soundtrack. We got the all Fastway request hour and they managed to get some of their best songs played in Trick or Treat. Some of them include “Don’t Stop The Fight,” “Tear Down The Walls,” “Scream Until You Like It” and the main event… the title track, “Trick or Treat.” In fact, the song was so epic, it was the feature song played when Sammi returned from the dead to take human form, and some lives while he was at it. Have a listen yourself and bang your head.
Now for the million dollar question… is this film any good? That’s the interesting part; its entirely up to you. The dialogue and the acting is beyond cheesy and there are plotholes up the wazoo. How in the world did a local DJ have Sammi Curr’s only copy of his unreleased demo and what in the name of all that is holy was up with that goofy monster thing that attacked Tim’s girlfriend in the car? It sure wasn’t Christine, that’s for sure. All in all, the movie is a rip-roaring rock and roll party, perfect to pound some drinks and bang your head to. Is it good? It doesn’t matter! The point of ’80s hair metal was to have fun, and that’s exactly what this movie is, fun! For better or for worse, if you see this movie, you will be talking about it one way or another. So let’s raise our glasses to Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne, the late Tony Fields and Rock N Roll and bang our heads.