Saturday, November 10, 2012

Slasher VHS Week: 'Trick or Treats' (1982)

By Ryan Clark

Trick or Treats is another oft-maligned slasher I'm just now catching up with.  And you know what?  It's really not as bad as people say it is.  I mean, yeah, there's a distinct lack of slashing, and the plot – an escaped mental patient (Peter Jason) wants to kill his wife, but instead goes after his son's babysitter – is pretty much a rip-off of the 1971 movie Fright, but there are a couple of reasons why I think Trick or Treats is relatively entertaining despite its deficiencies. 

The big one is the all-star cast.  I mean, this thing features such dearly departed talents as Carrie Snodgress (a Thrill Me! favorite), David Carradine, and Paul Bartel, and still-living Steve Railsback.  How can I not love it for that reason alone?  Sure, they don't have much to do, but the fact that they are there at all is enough to get me through.  The acting generally is not too bad even among the lesser-known cast members, including the obnoxious young boy (Chris Graver, the director's son) who torments his babysitter (Jackelyn Giroux) with a variety of pranks all night long.  These tricks get old real quick, but they lend the film a playful quality that fits the Halloween theme perfectly.

Trick or Treats is almost more of a comedy than a horror film.  Most will be irritated by this, but I found it rather endearing.  It has more genuine laughs than renowned comedy slashers like Student Bodies and Killer Party.  The jokes, as corny as they can be, make tolerable the scenes where nothing really happens. 

Prolific filmmaker Gary Graver's direction, on the other hand, is lifeless, and his cinematography isn't much better.  Even indoors it's often so dark you can't see a thing, and I don't think that is just the fault of the VHS transfer.  Make no mistake, this is one cheap-ass movie.  It seems like a lot of the actors did it as a favor and not because they were drawn to the material.  The soundtrack appears to be a series of cues culled from better movies (and, indeed, there is no composer credit on the film), but it is fairly effective in setting the mood.  Still, it's hard to imagine how this would have played in theaters.  I suspect there were many walkouts.  Trick or Treats isn't going to be anyone's favorite slasher, and it will probably bore most people who decide to pop it in, but I thought it was an amusing time-waster.  Just keep your expectations low.

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