Trick or Treat: the Movie That Got Me through My Sophomore Year

For about a year in high school, Trick or Treat (a low budget horror movie dealing with heavy metal) was the most important movie in my life. My family had moved to a one-horse town where the main activity for teenagers was “cruising,” driving around aimlessly in cars and grouping in parking lots, trying to arrange meeting spots or procure alcohol.

I was a heavy metal kid, and there was a very small contingent of these people at my new school. They were harder to pick out than at my last high school, where there was a definite heavy metal uniform and no way of mistaking your affiliation. In this new town, I might see some longish hair and a T-shirt for a heavy metal band. But this might just mean that they liked the band. What I was interested in was did they live for the music? No-compromising dress and hair was an indicator for me that they did. It took awhile to get to know people, and I was called a few names and even told point-blank by one junior girl in study hall (who I’m sure had the best intentions) that I would have to change my hair and dress if I wanted to get along with people.

I don’t know anyone who comes out of that age unscathed. It’s the cruelest time, I think, because you are ruled by your peers. You haven’t learned how to behave or think in nuances yet and are controlled by galloping hormones to boot. Junior high and high school seems to be one big Lord of the Flies, and I congratulate anyone who makes it out alive—really, it feels like a war sometimes. Luckily we are given a few tools to make those years more bearable—music, books, and movies, and the heroes that are born of them.

In those dark days of being the new kid in a place that didn’t see this too often, I was dependent on my stereo and a stack of black VCR tapes on which me and my sister had recorded horror movies from cable channels. Our favorite movie at this time was Trick or Treat starring Marc Price (of Family Ties fame) as Eddie Weinbauer, the awkward heavy metal kid at his high school. He’s a fuckup and teased mercilessly by the popular clique, but that’s okay because he’s got his rock god Sammi Curr, who happens to come from the exact same town but got out. Looking a lot like Nikki Sixx circa mid-1980s, Sammi Curr has made it big in heavy metal and taken on legislative groups similar to the PMRC—remember that one?

trickortreatragman

It’s easy to forget that heavy metal once scared the shit out of people and that’s what Trick or Treat plays on—those long-ago fears that if you played a Judas Priest record backwards you would be compelled to commit suicide or sell your soul to the devil. Eddie understands what heavy metal really is, though—it’s borrowed power for when you’re feeling weak and vulnerable.

trickortreat2

Eddie writes to his hero Sammi Curr and is able to minimize his high school bullying because Curr gets him through it. He signs off his letters with Ragman, the heavy metal identity he’s created for himself, but then he discovers that Curr has perished in a hotel fire.

There are a few cameos in Trick or Treat by heavy metal icons, and to look at the DVD cover you might think that Ozzy Osbourne (as a reverend) and Gene Simmons (as a DJ named Nuke) are the stars of this movie. Between the two of them, though, they share maybe seven minutes tops. They are funny minutes with Osbourne mimicking the groups that came after him, parsing his lyrics to show the moral depravity in them. And Nuke helps to put the plot of Trick or Treat in action.

MV5BMTkwMjYzNDg4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEzMTkzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR51,0,214,317_

Nuke is friends with Eddie, and out of fan love, he gives him Sammi Curr’s unreleased record, which he plans on playing publicly for the first time on Halloween eve. Somewhat consoled, Eddie takes it home and falls asleep listening to it. That’s when he discovers that there are hidden messages on the record that tell him how to get even with the kids that pick on him. Within a week of listening to and following those messages, Eddie goes from powerless to powerful.

The role of Sammi Curr (both pre-fire and after he is conjured by the backward-playing record) was originally supposed to go to Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. It ended up going to Tony Fields instead, a former Solid Gold dancer of all things—how un­–heavy metal is that? He’s not bad as the satanic rocker—there’s a real sense of evil and menace that comes off him in the early part of the movie, but by the end, the movie’s devolved into camp and that scare is over.

l

That wasn’t what appealed to me that sophomore year, though. It was the idea that I could make heads roll when I felt least able.

 

A Heavy Metal Valentine

When Kristi and I were growing up and had just come back from Germany, we were spoiled for a couple of years because we had access to MTV. But then we moved to a small town where we had cable but no MTV for the first year we lived there. Luckily my resourceful sister had taped the best heavy metal videos from Headbangers Ball, which takes a real knack because you don’t want to record commercials or crappy videos. Her transitions were seamless, and that VCR tape was the loop and soundtrack to some angsty teenage years. We would watch that tape every day and I still remember the order of the videos. It started with Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” and then segued to KISS’s “I Love It Loud.”

 

We still have that tape. One day I’m going to get that transferred to DVD, and then we will be the happiest sisters in all the world. Sometimes we stay up late and play a game on YouTube, where we surprise each other by dialing up metal videos, which the next person has to feed off, and so on. But I’d still like to listen and look at old Metal Music—666—My Shit.

IMG_0138

Now I’m working on my heavy metal novel (about twenty thousand words in), and one of the first things I do when I’m writing is compose a playlist that thematically relates to what I’m working on. Here’s the first playlist I’ve come up with, and I’d like to have about four more so nothing gets stale. I’ve put up the music on 8tracks—my heavy metal valentine to you—and Kristi lettered and decorated it à la high school heavy metal and horror, which is what my story’s about.

A Heavy Metal Valentine

Sadly I wasn’t introduced to the awesome pairing of horror director Dario Argento and heavy metal band Goblin until after college, but all good things can wait. I would have probably died of the awesomeness if I saw their work too young.

Vixen was a lady metal band put togeher like some of the boy bands of the eighties and nineties, N’ SYNC and New Kids on the Block, and the only prerequisite was that a member be a female and hot. That’s something I’ve struggled and thought a lot about with metal—why did the ladies always have to be so tarted up?—and an issue I find myself writing about.

Whitesnake introduced what was probably the first video vixen—Tawny Kitaen—who was the epitome of the metal chick in the eighties, but she was always featured as an accessory to the band. First she dated the guy in RATT, then she made the rounds with Mötley Crüe and Whitesnake, until she went batshit crazy and beat her ex-husband with a shoe.

I do include Joan Jett on my list, though she spans many genres—punk, hard rock blues—and might not be considered heavy metal by some. She embraced the bad, tough girl ethos, though, which was what it meant to be a heavy metal lady and taking what you wanted.

And then, of course, we have the reigning highnesses of metal—Lita Ford and Doro Pesch. They’re the real-life versions of the warrior woman from Heavy Metal magazine.