TRICK OR TREAT
Released in November 1986 (Columbia)
The year 1986 was a very good year for almost everything. Bands like Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi were releasing bad ass albums a few records deep into their careers while Poison emerged on the scene from the depths of the Sunset Strip. Sports saw my favorite teams killing it as the 1986 New York Mets, the bad boys of baseball considered to be the rock band of sports, won the World Series while the 1986 season saw the New York Giants win the Super Bowl in early 1987. And, the movies were killer too! Fresh off 1985’s Back To The Future, which might be my favorite movie of all time, 1986 saw Lea Thompson warping my five year old mind in hot rocker garb in the flick Howard The Duck. And, combining music and movies, Trick Or Treat hit theaters featuring music from Fastway and acting appearances from KISS‘ Gene Simmons and legendary rocker Ozzy Osbourne.
Though the movie and the album, which serves as the soundtrack of the movie, are connected in so many ways, I thought I would review the movie first and the album second so I don’t muddy the waters too much. Is that cool? Well, it doesn’t matter. Because, that is what I’m going to do anyway! I’ve got the spirit of ’86! Or, something like that.
Movie Trick Or Treat:
The movie is described as a “heavy metal horror movie.” But, that might simplify it. But, the movie is far from the much more gore driven slasher film Trick R Treat which many think I am talking about when I bring up this movie. Instead, it is almost a coming of age style film about a heavy metal kid in the mid 1980s who idolized a rockstar who happened to graduate from the same school he is tormented in. “Ragman” Eddie Weinbauer, the metal kid, writes to his hero explaining that his music is what gets him through his tough times at school. He also throws in that he can’t believe the powers that be banned him from returning to play the school’s Halloween dance — The definition of a successful rock career?
The rockstar in question is a fictional one – Sammi Curr played by openly gay actor Tony Fields. Curr, who was seen arguing with congress ala Dee Snider‘s PMRC speech, dies in a hotel fire which they loosely explain was by his own design either as suicide or through his wild, angry antics. That part of the story isn’t clearly told. Upon learning of his hero’s death, “Ragman” tears up what would probably be thousands of dollars of awesome 1980s metal posters including Megadeth, Ozzy Osbourne, and more. That part makes my skin crawl like when I hear a classic action figure package ripped open. Back on point, when “Ragman” next sees his favorite DJ who he has a personal relationship with, played by Gene Simmons doing his best “Wolfman” Jack impression, he is gifted the “only” surviving record of Sammi Curr‘s last, yet unreleased album which Simmons intends to play backwards at midnight on Halloween. “Ragman” asks how since this is the “last surviving copy” and Simmons explains he has it on tape over there…
So, like, one of few copies would have been a more accurate description of what “Ragman” was given, wouldn’t it? Simmons says, “He’s in here.” Boy, was that true! When played backwards, which was apparently something people did with their records religiously in 1986 (I never did), it connects “Ragman” with his deceased idol who he had a spiritual connection with. But, unlike the letters he wrote to his hero when he was alive, his hero is now answering him from the beyond.
It is strange that I mentioned that my favorite movie was Back To The Future because the star of this movie is also has ties, pun intended, to the same TV show that the star of Back To The Future was known for. While Michael J. Fox, who played Marty McFly in Back To The Future, was Alex P. Keaton on the hit TV sitcom Family Ties, so was Marc Price who played geeky next door neighbor “Skippy” Handleman. In fact, I think you could see that a lot of Fox‘s acting rubbed off on Price who occasionally had a very Marty McFly quality to him. And, strangely, Ragman‘s love interest in Trick Or Treat named Leslie, played by Lisa Orgolini, looks and acts an awful lot like Mallory from Family Ties played by Justine Bateman. Intentional? Or, am I just giving this movie far too much thought? Probably both!
After “Ragman” is invited to a pool party by Leslie, the dream of every less than cool kid in any generation. He is thrown in the pool by the big bad jock Tim Hainey played by Doug Savant who bares a striking resemblance to Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Sure, they probably are 20 or more years different in age. But, it jumped out at me when I recently rewatched the DVD. Leslie saves “Ragman” from drowing in the shallow end of the pool but “Ragman” feels Leslie set him up. She didn’t but it checks with the paranoia an unpopular teen might have when a hot chick invites him somewhere and it doesn’t turn out well. “Ragman” promises to “nail them all.” And, Sammi Curr was listening!
One by one, Curr helps “Ragman” avenge his tormenters in stages that range from hilarious to horrifying. For example, “Ragman” gets the guts to tip Tim‘s lunch tray into his face and gets chased around the school. When Tim and crew think they have “Ragman” cornered behind a closed door, Tim sprays a fire extinguisher into the teacher’s lounge. Tim gets in trouble and “Ragman” walks off. Later on, Tim almost gets his brains drilled out by a device in shop class but “Ragman” stops it just in time. Furthering “Ragman” realizing this was going too far, Tim‘s girlfriend listens to a copy of the infamous tape and has her ears melted. But, not before we get a fantastic moaning scene complete with full frontal nudity. Oh yeah!
“Ragman” shows remorse when Tim shows up at his house asking if he was responsible for making it difficult for his girlfriend to hold up her sunglasses for the rest of her life and tries to call off the revenge with Curr who springs from his speakers and takes physical form in his bedroom. Curr has almost identical facial scars to Freddie Kruger which checks out because the same writers who were responsible for Nightmare On Elm Street are responsible for this cult classic. He tells “Ragman” to be loyal to his heroes or they will turn on him. And, kills Ozzy Osbourne‘s movie character who played a Priest ranting on TV about the dangers of rock music and suggestive lyrics. Yep, you read that right.
Anyway, the movie sees Sammi Curr use “Ragman” to get his tape played at the Halloween dance he was banned from performing at. In a sensational turn of events, Curr springs from the speakers exploding the band that was to perform instead of him — The Kickers. Curr, who seems to be powered by the electric current that plays his tape backwards, performs “Trick Or Treat” complete with fantastic, though not rockstar, antics that more resemble Tony Fields‘ work on A Chorus Line rather than that of an 1980s metal performer. But, after the twurls that leave the viewer somewhat confused, the bad ass looking rocker who just was prancing starts striking down the kids at the party with electricity flying from his guitar during the solo. “Ragman” saves the day luring Curr into the back of a police car which he drives off a bridge and crashes into the river below killing the electric powered rocker once and for all. And, of course, destroying all copies of the tape including the one Gene Simmons had at the radio station studio. “Ragman” must have learned to swim in the deep river after not being able to swim at all in the shadow end of the pool days before. Plot hole? Yep. But, again, I’m thinking about this too much.
The movie was not a fiscal success. In fact, it was a bomb. But, many movies that bomb upon release are not unworthy of watching. In fact, this movie is one of my top five favorite films of all-time. Sure, it has some moments that are cringe worthy. And, instead of the Fastway album art which sees Sammi Curr in all his glory on it, the movie poster and DVD artwork for the movie features pictures of Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne to appeal to the rock audience. But, it has a cool story. And, though I grew up a few years later and was “Ragman” in 1996 or later rather than 1986, the movie still speaks to me. I was the uncool metal kid and wrestling fan in a black leather jacket from September to June. I didn’t have the long hair but I did have the rest going for me in all the anti-social, outcast ways. I was “Ragman” and I can think of at least one girl that would have been my Leslie. Of course, I never got anywhere with said Leslie. But, that is another story. Maybe I just needed to play an album backwards and have a demon rocker come to life and kill everyone to land that girl? Joking aside, the movie speaks to my two kids as well who both love the movie. I just have to skip the moaning naked chick in the car having her ears roasted like marshmellows. I might be a bad parent for showing them this movie at all but I’m not going to show them that scene!
A fun foot note on the movie is that Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. was considered and even offered the role of Sammi Curr. Why Tony Fields, who does a good job but who had a very different real life persona that bled into the role (the dancing) was chosen is a little bit of a mystery. But, Blackie turned down the deal feeling it would hinder his musical career. But, only a year later, Blackie loaned his likeness and performance of “Scream Until You Like It” to the movie Ghoulies II. And, a fun fact on top of this foot note, “Scream Until You Like It” is performed in Trick Or Treat when Gene Simmons is talking to “Ragman”. But, it isn’t done by W.A.S.P.! Who knew that wasn’t a Blackie original? I didn’t!
Gene Simmons called the movie “awesomely bad” in a 2004 VH1 Top 100 Most Metal Moments presentation. I would have to agree. But, bad in a good way… And, awesome in all ways!
And now, the album.
Album Trick Or Treat:
Released in November of 1986, a month after the cimeatic release of the movie, Fastway‘s Trick Or Treat is the band’s fourth studio album and the soundtrack of the movie. It features songs such as “Trick Or Treat”, “After Midnight”, and “Get Tough” which are themes throughout the motion picture.
Musically, the album fits the mid 1980s metal scene perhaps closer to hair metal than the movie would imply. Dave King makes his final appearance as vocalist for the late “Fast” Eddie Clarke and also, as of a few months ago, late Pete Way led band. Fastway would continue with different line-ups after this never quite achieving the same level of success. Dave King, however, would later form Flogging Molly which is a cool band though I admit not as much in my wheelhouse. The vocals on this particular offering are very close to that of Jack Russell from Great White. In fact, when I was a little one, I actually thought it was Jack. But, the Internet taught me differently.
Though there are eight tracks on the offering, only four or 5=five of the songs are identifiable from the movie. And, that is for good reason. The songs not included lack any kind of memorable punch and feel like they were filler to make up the numbers. But, the songs that land are iconic in my house. “Trick Or Treat”, “After Midnight”, “Don’t Stop The Fight”, and “Get Tough” in particular. “Tear Down The Walls” which plays as “Ragman” destroys precious classic metal merchandise, is catchy. But, short. Like, very short! In fact, I bet it was done only to be used as the score of that scene and never was supposed to be a song.
The Trick Or Treat album made me visit other Fastway material and find great songs like “Say What You Will” which is probably the msot well known Fastway track. So, for exposure to a new audience, it was successful in my case. But, again, it also was the end of this version of the band. Shame. There was a great style here that could have been bigger than it was.
All in all, I can tell you that there are three copies of this CD in my home. My wife and I own one copy while both of my kids requested, at different times, to get it for their collections. How cool is that?
01. Trick Or Treat
02. After Midnight
03. Don’t Stop The Fight
04. Stand Up
05. Tear Down The Walls
06. Get Tough
07. Hold On To The Night
09. If You Could See
Dave King – lead vocals
‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke – rhythm guitar/lead guitar
Shane Carroll – second guitar
Paul Reid – bass guitar
Alan Connor – drums
Mick Feat – bass (8)
Charlie McCraken – bass (9)
Jerry Shirley – drums (8, 9)
Produced by ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and Will Reid Dick
Engineered by Will Reid Dick
Produced and engineered by Eddie Kramer (8, 9)
Executive producer: Stephen E. Smith
Fairlight programming by Pete Williams
Fastway‘s “Trick Or Treat” video: