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Digging up the past like a long-buried, rotting old pet, Strange Things brings you the good, the bad and the simply appalling films of yesteryear. Seek them out if you dare!

Opening up, we have writer and film-maker A.D. Barker waxing lyrical about the days when Satan planned to destroy the world by rotting away the ozone layer with hairspray - heavy metal occult shocker Trick or Treat!

On October 26, 1984, nineteen year old metal head John McCollum placed a 22-caliber handgun to his head and blew his brains out. He had been listening to Ozzy Osbourne.

A year later, two days before Christmas, high school dropouts Raymond Belknap and James Vance made a suicide pact after listening to Judas Priest. They made their way to a nearby churchyard and then each shot themselves with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Both Ozzy and Priest’s lead singer and lyricist, Rob Halford, were brought to trial. For Osbourne, it seemed middle America had waged a war against him, after not just McCollum, but kids in California, Georgia and New Jersey all took their lives after supposedly listening to Ozzy’s controversial track Suicide Solution, taken from his Blizzard of Oz album in 1980. Many Christian groups attacked Osbourne, accusing him as being a Satanist and dealing in black magic. This from a man who once said, “How can I raise the Devil? I can’t even raise myself out of bed in the mornings!”

Osbourne’s trial, and the Priest case, was eventually dismissed by the courts, stating that there was no connection between the artists’ songs and the spate of teenage suicides.

Trick or TreatYet, through the controversy, the 1980s were the commercial nadir for heavy metal, where big hair and tight pants were the order of the day. Bands such as Motley Crue, Poison, Cinderella and Twisted Sister dominated the airwaves. There were still a few bands forging a path in hard core, serious metal, a la Metallica and White Zombie, but for the most part it was spandex and socks down your pants time.

And it was during those heady days of cock rock and suicide controversy that a small horror film appeared, fusing together metal, the occult, Halloween, and murder and mayhem!

This little gem was called Trick or Treat.

Released in 1986, it tells the story of Eddie (Marc Price, who played Skippy in TV’s Family Ties), a high school metalhead who is just batnuts about his rock n’ roll idol, Sammi Curr. Eddie has metal in his veins man, as proven by a bedroom that is a shrine to all that is hard rock. Posters, studs, skulls and album covers adorn his room; most of which are dedicated to his aforementioned hero.
Sammi Curr is Eddie’s one salvation in a world that doesn’t understand him, where the girl he adores won’t look at him twice, where jocks strip him naked and lock him in the girl’s gym (you’ve gotta love 80s jocks), and where his clothes and musical tastes bring about ridicule and humiliation on a daily basis (you see Emos, its all been done before).

Just when our hero thinks things can’t get any worse, Sammi Curr goes and snuffs it in a hotel fire. Devastated, Eddie seeks consolation from local radio DJ, Nuke (played by Kiss’ legendary bass player Gene Simmons), who hands our bereaved protagonist a very rare demo of Curr’s last ever recordings. But, of course, dark forces are at work.

After being humiliated yet again at a pool party, Eddie does what any pissed-off teenager would do: he goes home and plays his new record backwards. And this where the trouble starts.

Trick or Treat - Ozzy OsbourneThe twisted soul of Sammi Curr has possessed the record, enabling him to coax young Eddie into becoming his puppet and do his evil bidding, simply by speaking to him from the grooves of the vinyl.

Eddie has another encounter with the jocks - where he gets called a ‘wussy fucking weaktit’ - great insult. But by now Sammi has become somewhat of a handful, and has unleashed his wraith onto the High School kids. Just listening to one of his albums on a Walkman (you young go-getters may have read about them once!?) can be bad news, as one of the bully’s girlfriends finds out when she does just that, and ends up stripped naked and attacked by a giant rubber demon. I get the feeling that Sammi wasn’t very appreciative of his many fans.

Our demonic rock god then reincarnates himself, seemingly just to bump off jocks and play one last gig. Well why not, if he’s in town…

Eddie meanwhile tries to right his wrong by getting his friend Roger to steal and destroy a possessed cassette tape (which I think holds Sammi’s soul. I’m not too sure; the plot had run away from me by then). But of course, Roger listens to the tape, thus summoning Curr, who tells him to play it at midnight on Halloween or suffer a horrible death. Why? Who cares? (a little aside – the character of Roger was played by Glen Morgan, who went onto write for The X Files and the Final Destination movies, not to mention direct the remake of Black Christmas.) So Eddie and his gang try and stop Sammi at the Halloween Dance, but not before Sammi gets to play on last gig.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, which came out the year before Trick or Treat, did have a similar storyline, but I don’t think that one was nearly as much fun (apart from that scene where Krueger possesses the family budgerigar, causing it to explode! Classic horror!).

Trick or TreatI’ve got to say, the character of Sammi Curr isn’t the greatest of horror villains, but he is fun. Or should that be, hilarious? He was originally to be played by the brilliantly named Blackie Lawless from 80s rockers W.A.S.P, until the role eventually went to Tony Fields, a professional dancer who’d appeared in Richard Attenborough’s A Chorus Line. Fields tragically died of AIDS in the mid-90s.

All this, and I’ve still not mentioned Ozzy Osbourne in the oh-so-ironic role of a religious crusader who bangs on about how rock n’ roll is the Devil’s music and it is the perversion of America’s kids. His role was filmed around the time of his court cases. But what did Ozzy care? This is the man who pissed on the Alamo.

Trick or Treat marked the directorial debut of actor Charles Martin Smith, an actor most famous for his role as George Lucas’ alter-ego Terry the Toad in American Graffiti, and his turn in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. Curiously he never made another horror film, although he did direct pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is a shame he never made more horror though.

Yes, Trick or Treat is a product of its time, riddled with clichés and lackluster scares - but it is great fun, and has some cool little set-pieces and interesting ideas.

So seek it out, if you dare! Get some beers in and watch it this coming Halloween!

A.D. BARKER

 

 

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