Sunday, September 12, 2010

TRICK OR TREAT (1986) - if it's too loud, you're too old, and if you're too old, you probably don't understand the angst of youth

Here is the opening, to the tune of "Stand Up", which is a song about standing up for yourself. Sometimes poetry is of the more direct variety.

Trick or Treat set the standard heavy metal treatises, and hath not since been usurped. One can conjure up an avalanche of complicated verbiage to describe the sociological implications of metal, but Trick or Treat renders this unnecessary. Instead, it presents the eternal struggle between dorky headbanger and a society both cold and dehumanising, rendering it through cinematic myth, while difficult ideas are clarified in visceral terms.

The film presents two overlapping modes, a clashing of fantasy and reality. One is a realistic story of a mulleted high school loser (Skippy from Family Ties), beaten down emotionally and otherwise by your standard jock bullies while pining for the hand of his dream brunette, a seemingly unattainable symbol of potential happiness. The other “mode” involves Skippy initiating a Faustian pact with the spirit of his dead hero, rebellious hard rocker Sammi Curr, through a possessed LP. Riffalicious supernatural shenanigans that ensue.

Definitive portraits of a particular faction of society are often best portrayed through unadorned realism. However, heavy metal is itself a fantastical metaphor for life. When Skippy rocks along to a Manowar record, joining forces with the band to decapitate a hydra (that’s all eight heads before victory is claimed), inner Skippy demons are vanquished along the way. It was Rob Halford who said that “metal is power”, and by proxy, empowering. One gets the impression that Rob struggled with being very very gay as a youngster, teased and marginalized, and his monumental musical career was a way of overcoming and conquering, quite ironically through the most masculine of musical genres (on the surface, anyway). Skippy has zero self confidence, and certainly no power, and all of this screechy fist pumping noise keeps him alive and moving forward. The prominent “reality” of heavy metal is of the internal variety.

The movie sucks us into the main character’s struggle through spot on performances and sad sack empathy, and this is supplemented with some stellar rock montages and individual scenes that stand out as headbangingly righteous, not to mention the “must own” groin pummeling soundtrack, courtesy of Fastway.

Take, for example, the scene where Skippy finally grows a pair and decides to fight back, knocking a lunch tray into the head bully’s lap. His crew chases Skippy through school, set to the tune of ass rocker “Get Tough” (it’s a song about toughening up, and an apropos selection if I may say so). At one point, Skip impedes their progress with a mop bucket, and one dude goes sliding into a stairwell in ripsnorting fashion. The scene eventually ends with Skippy having outwitted these jocktard hooligans, fooling them into thinking he’s hiding behind a particular door. The head bully grabs a fire extinguisher, kicks the door open, and unloads, only to find that it’s actually the teacher’s lounge, and that they are in fact spraying teachers attempting to enjoy a cup of shitty coffee and a bagel. That's a shitload of demerits right there.

There’s also the scene where a tape of the possessed record finds it’s way into the walkman of the super hot girlfriend of the lead bully (chicks dig assholes, after all). She relaxes in the back seat of car and listens to the music, and the spirit of metal oozes out of her headphones and start molesting her as she falls asleep. Naturally, this green spirit turns into a goblin of sorts, which sticks it’s tongue in her general direction. While not socially acceptable (nor should it be), there are a strain of rivetheads that consider the gentle rape of a passed out chick to be all part of the rock n’ roll “game”. El Duce quantified this phenomenon with the song “Sleep Bandits”, and dubbing his band (The Mentors, of course) “rape rock”. Similarly, there’s also the fact that any female that crowd surfs at a concert will get molested to some extent.

The evil girlfriend (Elise Richards) also happens to be as hot as satan shooting a fireball into stream of lava (although Skippy’s object of desire, Lisa Orgolini, is no slouch either), with some amazing eyebrows to boot. This is Elise’s definitive role, and she also as a small part in Valet Girls (1987), and possibly W.A.S.P.’s video for "Love Machine" (and that’s the extent of her film career, unfortunately). I haven’t been able to verify it, but I think it’s her at the 2:07 mark, convincingly portraying a slutty nurse. So, as if she wasn’t marriage worthy enough already, she rips her nurse outfit off in a W.A.S.P. video (allegedly). Lord all mighty. Speaking of which, every single nurse that show up in a rock video (or in a porno) is a total slut. You never see helpful nurses curing ailments with medication. Part of the big rock n’ roll fantasy is that sexy time with a nurse will cure any ailment known to man, whether common cold or bone marrow cancer.

Gene Simmons has a cameo as the local radio DJ, and, more amusingly, Ozzy Osbourne is featured as a preacher that goes on television to complain about the evil of rock lyrics, “rock pornography” as they call it. At one point, he shows up on T.V. ans starts bitching in front of zombie Sammi Curr, so Sammi sticks his finger through the T.V. and wipes away the image, while Ozzy screams in pain. Apart from the hilarious irony of Ozzy ranting against evil rock lyrics (and the general hilarity of Ozzy speaking about anything, for that matter), there’s the out of left field way that he is dispatched. Most of us don’t have the power to destroy idiot blowhards like that through a television, but we can still smack them over the head with a hard rockin’ record, maybe Yes’ Yessongs LP. I know, it’s not exactly heavy metal, but it’s a 3 record set with a gatefold sleeve, and therefore, heavier in the sense of the physical damage it can cause.

Most awesome of all is the Halloween concert at Skippy’s high school, where dead Sammi Curr returns to rock the shit out of the gym. The crowd is into it instead of being horrified, just as with Rocktober Blood. Heavy metal crowds don’t get nervous when dead people start playing a set, they just assume it to be all part of the show (it’s some kind of zombie spectacle). Sammi struts and pirouettes his way through the song “Trick or Treat” (fitting, I know), his “moves” impressing with athleticism and vague homosexual overtones. He then picks up his guitar to squeal out a solo, and starts shooting lasers at the crowd. The students are still rocking along for a small while, until they realize that these are in fact real guitar lasers and not merely the cosmetic variety. However, when some dude headbanging in the front row gets zapped and turned to dust, another guy behind him, wearing a skull mask, doesn’t run for his life. Instead, he sees this as an opportunity to finally get right up to the stage, and rushes forward pumping his devil horns. I guess the threat of being annihilated is all part of the fun.

This scene is clearly in the mode of Carrie, another great film about a high school outcast unleashing a destructive maelstrom against those that hath wronged them. One such victim in this case happens to be Charles Martin Smith, Toad from American Graffiti, who also happens to be the director (he’s the teacher that wears the Groucho glasses as a Halloween costume). One gets the impression that Mr. Smith knew what it was liked to be picked on in high school (like a less gay version of Rob Halford, I guess), and was more interested in the nerd angle of the story than creating a shock horror film. Although an odd choice on the surface, he seems to really understand this “nerd against the world” dynamic, and how heavy metal (at least in the 80’s) speaks to it’s audience through fantasy. Many parents, church groups, and retard politicians assumed that heavy metal lyrics told stories that represented the reality of the fans, demonology and strippers and what have you. If they would only employ some intellectual honesty, and open their heart to a film like Trick or Treat, they might actually learn that even seemingly idiotic art is still a human means of coping with reality.


  1. es bastante probable que elise richards sea una de las enfermeras de love machine, se parecen bastante. aunque a mi me gustaria saber como se llama la que esta en el agua. ¿y como se puede ver esta pagina traducida?. mi ingles no es muy bueno, y lo he intentado varias veces.

  2. @anonymous
    No se de la llama de ella o la traducida de la pagina. Yo busco para blog traducida. Lo siento y Gracias!