I was searching for the band Fastway on YouTube the other night, when I came across a grand surprise: Some super cool person had posted the entire movie “Trick Or Treat” on the site.
Holy crap! I hadn’t seen this 1986 horror-metal B-movie masterpiece since I snuck into it years before I was old enough to drive. Is “Trick Or Treat” worth your time? Read and decide for yourself. Metal movie review time, roll the clip!
First, a word about the soundtrack. Fastway was one of those 1980s era also-ran bands that were unfairly lumped in with Ratt, Motley Crue, Poison and the rest of the “hair metal” gang. Frankly, that’s too bad: With former Motorhead guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and vocalist Dave King, Fastway was way better than the Aquanet metal set. “Fastway,” “All Fired Up” and the “Trick Or Treat” soundtrack were all tight little albums that drew on blues, metal and classic rock. It’s a shame these guys couldn’t rise above the hairspray smog that blemished so much of the ’80s metal scene.
Don’t believe me? Here’s Fastway’s video for “After Midnight” from the “Trick Or Treat” soundtrack right here (by the way, that’s actor Tony Fields, not Dave King, pretending to sing):
You can still find the soundtrack on Amazon.com for cheap, so look it up. But let’s talk about the movie.
First of all, the headbanger is played by Marc Price, a.k.a. “Skippy” from the TV show “Family Ties.” WHOO, SKIPPY! Man, that mullet is you. You’re finally gonna get some of that fine Mallory Keaton action for sure with a look that suave.
Uh, or not. Here, decide for yourself.
If you faithful readers, both of you, are under the age of 28, you probably have no idea who “Skippy” or ”Mallory Keaton” are, and have never heard of “Family Ties.” Maybe you’re better off that way, so don’t bother to Google them.
Anyway, The Skipster plays Eddie “Ragman” Weinbauer, a metalhead stereotype with poor fashion sense, an invisible “bully me, I’m a dork” sign on his back and an unsightly mancrush on Sammi Curr, a rocker who bears an uncanny resemblance to Nikki Sixx. When not writing obsessive, lonely letters to Sammi, Ragman spends his days getting picked on by the high school preps, hanging out with people even nerdier than himself and pining for pretty preppie Leslie (Lisa Orgolini).
After Sammi bites it in a mysterious fire, Ragman’s DJ buddy Nuke (Gene Simmons, or Gene $immon$ for all you haters), gives Rags a record Sammi cut just before he died. When Rags plays the record, it sounds like gibberish, or maybe “lite jazz” … until Rags spins it backwards.
Through the magic of Satanic subliminal “backward masking” (there’s a nod to you, “my sweet Satan”), Sammi tells Ragman how to retaliate against the preppie jockheads who torment him. It all goes great at first … but the record also allows Sammi to come back from the dead as an electromagnetic, bolt-throwing, radiowave-inhabitating spirit who can pop out of stereos and speakers when his record is played. Oh no!
Once released, Sammi fries an anti-metal TV preacher (Ozzy Osbourne, who probably prepared for the role by watching the PMRC hearings and the protests outside his own concerts), turns into a goofy demon – the costume was probably rescued from the “Muppets” reject pile - and humps an airhead preppie girl, thrashes, nukes and microwaves various teens through the hellfire-and-brimstone power of metal and decides that Leslie must die. Naturally, it’s up to Skippy/Ragman to save the day. It’s Metal vs. Mullet in a duel to the death! Whoo hoo!
So what’s good about “Trick Or Treat”? Well: 1) The Fastway soundtrack is freakin’ outstanding; 2) The high school dance/Sammi rock out scene is great – seriously, a guy in a Humpty Dumpty costume gets incinerated by the evilness of metal: How can you not love that? 3) Lisa Orgolini is cute enough, even if she does stay infuriatingly clothed for most of the flick; 4) Skippy displays solid acting chops as the believable, put-upon Ragman (anyone who ever slavishly followed a metal band will relate when Rags writes that Sammi’s music is the only thing that gets him through his crappy day); and, uh … oh yeah; 5) The “demon hump” scene is pretty freaky, if not exactly “super freaky” in a Rick James sort of way.
What’s not so great? Except for Ragman/Skippy, most of the characters are pretty one-dimensional. The bad preppies are universally mean (except for Leslie, who must have a yen for whipped-puppy types like Skippy). As Sammi, Tony Fields spends most of the movie sneering, bulging out his eyes and otherwise biting holes through the scenery. The Ragman/Leslie love interest seemed pretty far-fetched, too: Sure, he wants to jump her bones, but what, precisely, does she see in him? Sad-sack mulletheads don’t exactly scream, “I’m a good provider, capable of siring quality offspring,” now do they?
But those are minor quibbles: No one rents a flick like “Trick Or Treat” looking for crap like character development or nuanced, believable relationships. Hell no: They wanna see preppie kids get obliterated by the blackened, awesome power of metal. On that score, you won’t be disappointed: More bratty teens get zapped in “Trick Or Treat” than walked down the aisle with you in your graduating class.
But is “Trick Or Treat” the best metal movie ever? It’s reactionary, to be sure (Moral: Metal Bad), but it’s funny enough to warrant a watch. If anything, it’s a revealing look at the “backward masking” fear-craze that swept the nation in the 1980s, when people were convinced Ozzy, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin and even Electric Light Orchestra were hiding Satanic messages on their records. As usual, the mainstream’s fear makes for great comedy in retrospect.
Or just rent it cuz it’s a hoot. As Gene says, “iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Party Time!”