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Trick or Treat
Poster by Ian Conczarow
Text by Gordan Dalton
What do you remember about 1986? It could be the Challenger Space Shuttle crashing,
or perhaps the Chernobyl Disaster? Halleys’ Comet made a rare appearance. Out of Africa swept the boards at the Oscars and Mike Tyson won his first title. People leaving this mortal coil included actors James Cagney, Cary Grant; writers Jean Genet, Simone De Beauvoir and artists Georgia O’Keefe and Henry Moore. Unbeknown to most of us Pixar Studios was launched, The Oprah Winfrey Show aired its first episode and Lady Ga Ga crawled out into the world (wearing a jazzy outfit probably).All of which are very important, but I had to Google them. My memories of 1986 are a combination of some very important, culturally significant milestones. Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee married Heather Locklear; Slayer released Reign in Blood, which is still one of the greatest records ever; Maradona ‘scored’ via the hand of God. Metallica’s Cliff Burton sadly died when their tour bus overturned in Sweden. There was some other stuff involving girls.
I was 16 and had just left school.Strangely, given the colossal status I attach to these events, it is a movie that sticks in my mind. Not the omnipresent Top Gun, Platoon or Crocodile Dundee. Not even Aliens, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Poltergeist II. One movie ranks higher in my 86’ memory banks than even Police Academy 3 or Stallone’s Cobra. That film is Trick or Treat.The mind plays strange tricks on you. Why would Trick or
Treat be an iconic moment? Why now, 27 years later could I draw you a half decent version of the VHS cover art?
I’d seen better movies. Thanks to Bert’s Mobile Video library (it was the boot of his
beat up Transit van), I’d seen most of the Palace collection along with pretty much every so-called video nasty or exploitation movie before I was 16. Dodgy copies of videotapes were easily acquired at school. Between 1981-86 weekends were a heady mix of playing football and cricket, watching scratchy versions of Terminator, Maniac Cop, Evil Dead
and listening to Heavy Metal. Very. Fucking. Loudly. They still are. I am that cool.
On paper, the heavy metal horror flick Trick or Treat had everything in its favour. I was its target audience. I was that Heavy Metal Kid. I was that horror geek. I sympathized,
or rather fantasized about the story of a high school outsider, the odd one out, dreaming about escaping a humdrum small town life to be a stadium playing rock God. The kid with posters of bands with monolithic names and even bigger hairstyles, with a wardrobe full of pirated VHS tapes, rubber chickens, footballs, gorilla outfits, Evel Knieval toys, mucky magazines, Michael Myers masks and practical jokes, that was me.
Heavy Metal was big, dumb and loud and I loved it. It provided a framework for ridiculous and not so ridiculous hopes and dreams. It was sex, drugs, rock’n’roll. It was denim and leather, spandex, studs and hairspray. It was tight black jeans, white hi-tops and a band t-shirt with exotic places I’d never heard of on the tour schedule. It was eye-melting lighting rigs and stage sets, with ear bleeding volume. It was girls wearing bikinis and cowboy hats. It was nuclear holocausts and post-apocalyptic zombie survival. It was dungeons and dragons and slaying dragons with giant swords and laser beams. Actually, scrap that last one. I never really took to the fantasy world of wizards and epic quests. Once you’ve seen one guitarist dressed as a druid slay a 30ft mechanical spider with laser beams shooting from his axe during the 30 minute guitar solo, you’ve seen them all.
Most of all, it was a good laugh, with a supportive gang of like-minded creative people.
It flirted with embarrassment and ridicule. When I say flirted, I mean took it out, got drunk, and had a messy coupling down a back alley. Thing is, it didn’t care what you thought.Trick or Treat took all that, added some very mild horror and diluted it until
it looked and tasted unpalatable. The embarrassing cameos from Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons added to the cringe-fest. Ozzy was too out of it to know better but at least
his TV evangelist hinted at a serious subjects such as censorship and the crackdown by PMRC. Gene Simmons was, is, and always will be a prize idiot of the highest order, but we have KISS, and therefore he, along with Ozzy, retains Rock God Status. Anyway,
the movie bombed, and struggles to hold any cult appeal.
The title was a misnomer in itself. It had nothing to do with Halloween. It should have been revenge movie called Screaming For Vengeance, named after the Judas Priest album whose poster is on the kids’ wall. What could have been a gore filled, anti-censorship Heavy Metal version of Coppola’s The Outsiders, was instead a corporate cash-in cliché. After all, we all know Metal is the Devil’s music, perfect for a horror movie. Satan himself should have been the star, with Dave Lee Roth doing high kicks and shooting lasers from his penis. Girlschool would unleash face-hugging serpents from their nipples and Venom would vomit blood over the PMRC’s Tipper Gore (sic). Blackie Lawless from WASP would fuck everything like an animal and Iron Maiden’s Eddie would save the day by slashing everyone to death, much like he did to Margaret Thatcher on the cover art
of Sanctuary. The whole thing would benefit by being a big budget remake of Motorhead’s Killed By Death video. Not only is it the best song title ever, it has Lemmy bursting out of a grave on a motorbike with a buxom blonde on the back. What’s not to like?
In what is Trick Or Treat’s only remotely disturbing scene, a high school girl is undressed and molested in the back of a car by an unseen spirit (directly copying 1982’s The Entity), before being accosted by a ridiculous giant demon with a giant tongue
(not played by Gene Simmons). This demon hadn’t been mentioned before, and didn’t reappear again. They probably borrowed it for the day from the set of Poltergeist or any other host of similar movies. Despite, or maybe because of all this, I still remember
Trick or Treat as a critical moment when I realized too much is never enough.
I knew it was bad, I knew
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it was already about three years out of date in terms of what any self-respecting Metal fan was listening to. I wanted it to be scarier, too push the boundaries further, to say more and scream it louder. This isn’t some postmodernist revelation or trying to nostalgically airbrush the past. Postmodernism doesn’t touch the sides if you’ve seen
a man fly a surfboard across a stage, or seen another guillotined. If you’ve ever seen
a giant inflatable prostitute or a grown man dressed as a schoolboy drop his trousers
to 100,000 people in the name of entertainment, postmodernism doesn’t cut it. Hell, Spinal Tap came out in ’84, long before I’d picked up any art book.
Trick or Treat, with all its many flaws, reminds me why I still love Heavy Metal
and Horror movies. It reminds me to enjoy everything. To live life without fear of embarrassment, to ‘follow your dreams, no matter what they are or you’ll never amount to anything’ as the late, great Evel Knieval once said. I’m still that heavy metal kid in the corner, watching scary movies and aspiring of something, somewhere else, something ambitious. I may not be headlining Castle Donnington with a stage set designed by Tom Savini. I haven’t scored a World Cup winning goal. As of yet, I’m not playing my platinum selling triple album live at the Budokan, with AC/DC supporting. But that’s how I think. You’re probably thinking grow up. If so, take comfort in that I’m thinking fuck off.Everything louder than everyone else. Louder, heavier, faster. Put your fist in the air. Bang your head. Have a good time all of the time.