"…when Halloween night stopped being fun."
directed by: Gary Graver
starring: Jackelyn Giroux, John Blyth Barrymore, Paul Bartel, David Carradine, J.L. Clark, Catherine E. Coulson, Maria Dillon, Chris Graver (I), Peter Jason, Jillian Kesner, Owen Orr, Dan Pastorini, Steve Railsback Jason Renard, Tim Rossovich, Carrie Snodgress, Allen Wisch, Nike Zachmanoglou
(back of video blurb):
"This sensational suspense thriller centers on a young boy's Halloween hi-jinks and a true madman's thirst for revenge. Mr. And Mrs. Adams (Carrie Snodgress of The Fury and David Carradine of Lone Wolf McQuade) are attending a Halloween masquerade party and decide to leave their precocious son Christopher in the care of Linda, a local babysitter.
Christopher is a master of mischievious pranks and continuously batters Linda with them, until a bizarre turn of events unleashes a true madman, just escaped from a mental institution, who treats Christopher to a trick he will never forget…and his babysitter may never survive.
Next time your doorbell rings, be prepared…because it's TRICK OR TREATS!"
"These horror movies…they make me scared to drive home alone at night!"
(review by the blue iris)
I learned a hard lesson after watching DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN …that holiday themed slashers and I don't necessarily get along (check out my review for DOH if you want to know just how badly we get along). Then again there are some saving graces such as SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT and HALLOWEEN. So I didn't get my hopes up too much about TRICK OR TREATS. Ok, a little…I admit the cameo appearances by Carrie Snodgress (the unfortunate fender bender in THE FURY) and David Carradine (son of bad-movie veteran John) promised at least a bit of campy fun if not an all out riot. I should always go with my first instincts…these two were as expendable as the victims in a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. They come and go so quickly they could have been played by anyone else-and probably should have been. Unfortunately they only managed to lend the movie an air of "TV movie"-ness. Actually, so does the budget (in the sense that there was none).
This was a hard one to sit through. It started off promisingly, and I was pretty sure this was going to be a funny, satirical slasher that just might have some gore in it too. Unfortunately, this thing is paced like a major surgery. It also contains less blood than an average laundry detergent commercial. It started off rather promisingly. It even had a bit of a tongue-in-cheek attitude at first. Carrie Snodgress has apparently plotted to have her well-to-do husband taken away to a mental hospital--without telling him. As they sit peacefully in the backyard, two of the director's friends…I mean, two mental hospital attendants come to the house with straightjacket in hand. This kicks off a rather funny scene where the two attendants try to subdue the husband, who is frantic and flailing for the entire scene, which seems to go on for about 10 minutes. They all end up in the pool at one point. Ok, I thought, this could work as a spoof of slasher films (the next caption signifies time as "Several years later")…but oh how wrong I was. It may come off as a spoof, but it never actually "works".
To prove where this movie's heart is, we get to meet our blonde heroine Linda, nude, as she showers to some awful 80's lite rock. I'm guessing she's in California because we see a beautiful palm tree and setting sun landscape outside. This will be the last light we see in this film. Fulci gets criticized for his use of "atmospheric" darkness. His movies are overexposed compared to this impenetrable blackness. It must have saved a lot of cash for the director to shoot the film in complete darkness. It does, however, prevent the audience from actually seeing anything that happens on screen. Not that anything ever happens onscreen anyway. My guess is the producers of this film studied the DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN, mistaking it for John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN …thus we have TRICK OR TREATS.
The plot concerns Linda, a semi-spunky, semi-intelligent actress (pornos maybe…) who has to work as a babysitter on Halloween night to supplement her income (big surprise there). She calls her boyfriend to tell him to meet her at the home of the Adams'. The wife, we will discover, is the woman from the beginning of the movie who had her husband committed against his will "several years" before. Ok, if you can't figure out the plot at this point, well, you haven't seen enough bad slasher movies. The boyfriend can't meet her that night because he's making his stage debut as Othello! "How many times are you going to get to see me play Othello?" he whines. "Oh, you're too YOUNG to play Othello!" she whines back. Um…yeah. Just what I was thinking. So it'll just be her and the brat in the house that night. Right. We all know who else is going to be there!
If this plot sounds familiar, that's because it was made years before as a better movie called Fright, in which a babysitter and her charge are tormented by the escaped husband of the owner of the house, who mistakes the babysitter for his wife. Pretty creepy stuff there. This movie takes that premise…and does absolutely nothing with it. The lack of budget here has a huge impact on the movie, aside from the bad acting and lack of any blood whatsoever. The sets are nonexistent. Aside from the house where Linda is staying, the other sets are empty rooms that are only lit from the front. The rest of the sets are just black space. This may work in plays, but in movies, we like to see some spatial cues, a few hints as to what the location actually is…especially if there's nothing else going on onscreen to hold our interest. When the husband escapes from the "mental hospital" (a black room where bad actors pretend to see invisible bugs and make wacky faces), we're supposed to be caught up in the taut suspense as he knocks out a nurse, steals her uniform and escapes, and makes his way toward the babysitter (bumping into a slumming it Paul Bartel along the way). It's all incredibly absurd, but unfortunately not scary or gory.
The rest of the "action" concerns Linda and the spoiled brat she has to babysit. For about an hour, we watch as Linda gives trick or treaters candy. Then Christopher plays a dumb practical joke on her. She acts huffy. Rinse, repeat. The movie's almost over before anything even remotely resembling a slasher movie starts.
In a bizarre middle piece that seems to have come from a different movie, two bimbos, Blonde Editor and Brunette Editor, are "editing" a bad horror movie. Ha ha! They say some self-knowing dialogue about how horror movies will always exist, then how directors of bad horror movies suck (can't really argue with them) and how editors "make" movies. This movie apparently didn't have an editor…how else to explain the absolute lack of pacing or suspense? We get to see a snippet of the movie they're editing. A mad scientist and his two bimbo assistants (this movie is nothing if not consistent) are putting together an old dead guy for some reason. He gets to utter the immortal line, "Nurse, give me head!" And she hands him a head. Ha ha! Somebody shoot them all!
The movie limps to its climax, marked by the arrival of Blonde Editor to the Adams' house to give Linda an edited reel of one of her audition tapes (thank God we didn't have to sit through that too!) By now the mental patient husband has arrived and secretly leads her throughout the darkened house. Which is what I always do when I go to a stranger's house I've never been in. He kills her, or something. That scene is completely dark too, so we kind of think that's what's happening. Next time any light appears, Blondie is dead and bloody on the floor. Ok! Maybe the director would like to include the audience in this movie next time?
Actually, the most violence we get to see happens during the typical "Cat jumps into the scene" for a cheap scare. Only, this cat doesn't leap into the scene…it's thrown, violently, onto the kitchen counter with a thud. The poor thing hits the wall so hard it must have gotten a concussion. What is this, "Cat Vaulting"? It finally rights itself and flees, hopefully to scratch the eyes out of the idiot responsible. That's when the cliches come fast and furious: hubby chases Linda through the house, she hides in the perfect hiding spot (in pitch black), then gives away her location like an idiot (although she never does trip over thin air while being chased). Then she runs into a car…which doesn't start. Ok, so now instead of running to a neighbor's house or just down the street, she runs BACK into the house. Finally, she gets the kid to help her set up his mini-guillotine for the husband to run right into, stick his head in, and hold it there until the kid lets go of the blade. Oh, you don't believe this guy actually does that? Well, he does and it means the movie's going to be over soon, thankfully. So then the babysitter goes off to call the police, the kid takes a liking to the maniac's knife and…surprise! Twist ending. Roll credits. Burn tape.
I must report the tragedy that took place while I watched this movie. The video was accidentally rewound partway through and I was forced to…rewatch many scenes. The only treat I can think of is that I'll never have to do it again. I'm off to watch a good, well-lit Fulci film now.
BODYCOUNT 3 female:2 / male:1
1) Female killed (method unseen)
2) Male has throat cut with mini-guillotine
3) Female stabbed (offscreen)