Our final choices are two quintessential horror movies to wrap up the spooky season in the perfect way
October is here once again, which means all things spooky, creepy, and outright horrifying are currently making their way into the homes of millions of people – through their screens, of course. All Halloween aficionados know that this is the month where we attempt to watch as many horror movies as we can, marathoning as much blood and guts as anyone might be able to stand (or delight in). It may as well be a sacred tradition.
In that spirit, Knotfest has called on our very own Ryan J. Downey as well as resident film critic Nicolás Delgadillo to put together two individual lists of vital Halloween horror picks for every day of the month. The wide variety of macabre favorites range from classics to more obscure cult films and feature zombies, demons, serial killers, vampires, and monsters of all kinds from all different eras.
It is officially Halloween, which means our daily picks are now at the end. Our final choices for today come from the 70s and 80s, two quintessential horror movies to wrap up the spooky season in the perfect way.
‘Trick or Treat’ (1986) Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Studios eager to capitalize on the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) set about cranking out a series of supernatural slasher knockoffs in the ‘80s. While Trick Or Treat fits into that category, its blend of heavy metal and Satanic panic with the story of a small-town punk vs. high school bullies sets it apart.
Marc Price, who played the mostly clueless neighbor Skippy on TV’s Family Ties, is Eddie Weinbauer, aka “Ragman,” a high school misfit with only one friend, Roger (Glen Morgan). He loves heavy metal bands like Megadeth, but his all-time favorite is the fictional Sammy Curr (the late Tony Fields), a dark rocker with a hint of glam who is a mix of Blackie Lawless, Dee Snider, and Nikki Sixx. Knowing that Curr once attended his own high school strengthens Eddie’s fandom. Curr’s music and image makes him feel less alone.
When Eddie learns of Sammi’s death, he’s devastated. But a local radio DJ named Nuke (Gene Simmons, in a killer cameo) was friends with Sammi and is fond of Eddie. Nuke gives him the only copy of Sammy’s unreleased final album. Soon, Sammi begins speaking to Eddie from beyond the grave, whenever Eddie puts that album on his turntable. Sammi offers to exact vengeance on Eddie’s high school bullies, but things spiral out of control.
An electric performance at the high school Halloween dance, a flashback to a ritualistic ceremony full of fire and evil, exploding teenagers, a cameo from Ozzy Osbourne as an anti-heavy metal evangelical preacher, amazing practical effects by Kevin Yagher (including a brief appearance from Curr’s mascot turned real life demon, Skeezix), and Fields magnetic performance as Sammi make Trick Or Treat a thrilling ride, with a lot of horror charm.
Trick Or Treat marked the directorial debut of Charles Martin Smith, best known for his roles as an actor in American Graffiti and The Untouchables. The script is credited to the A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge duo of Joel Soisson and Michael S. Murphy, with uncredited rewrites by Morgan and his high school buddy James Wong. (Morgan and Wong went on to work on The X-Files and Final Destination together.)
A major part of the movie’s appeal is the soundtrack, standing in as Curr’s music, written and recorded by the band Fastway. Fastway was a supergroup featuring the late “Fast” Eddie Clark of Motörhead, late UFO bassist Pete Way, and singer Dave King, who now fronts Flogging Molly.
While it was a box-office bomb (erasing the chance of any planned sequels), Trick Or Treat eventually found a cult audience on home video, which persists to this day, as evidenced by a multitude of bootleg merchandise.
A few years ago, I threw a birthday party for myself, inviting friends to a small theater in Orange County to watch a series of ‘80s horror trailers and a feature film. That film? Trick Or Treat.
‘Halloween’ (1978) Directed by John Carpenter
Nothing beats the original, and John Carpenter’s true horror classic Halloween is the real original blueprint for so much that has come in the forty plus years after. The film first introduced the world to the unkillable masked murderer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) and his unfortunate prey Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), locking the two in an eternal struggle that’s continued on for multiple films and is still going even to this day.
Michael’s massacre of innocent teenagers still terrifies and captivates audiences just as well as it did back at the end of the 70s, and Carpenter’s excellent direction – the film was made on the cheap with pretty minimal plotting – remains the gold standard for the slasher subgenre. The violence is minimal, especially compared to the films that would come later, but the impact of what is shown is undeniable.
And of course, that score is certainly doing a hell of a lot of work. What better choice for Halloween night than the titular movie? Halloween‘s simplicity is its greatest strength.
Knotfest 2021 Halloween Horror Coverage: