To celebrate this day before Halloween edition of VHS Fridays, I give you Gary Graver's 1982 flick Trick or Treats.
Linda (Jacqueline Giroux) is stuck babysitting Halloween night and not only has to deal with her rambunctious charge, but also the escaped madman who comes calling.
I have a soft spot for Trick or Treats, as it served as one of the major influences of my 2013 short film Lively, but man this movie is a hot mess. The tone is puzzling from the get-go, as even though it is structured like a horror, the scattershot gags would have you believe it to be comedy. I mean, there's no other way to take the painfully long scene where Peter Jason struggles with the two orderlies carrying him away to the loony bin. Bits like this will make you laugh, but mainly in response to how they got onscreen. It's possible it was meant to be a spoof, but it's really too obtuse to be considered one. Student Bodies is a spoof, this is just confused.
|Babysitter (Jacqueline Giroux) & Babysittee (Chris Graver)|
Trick or Treats then fails as a horror film because there's little suspense or edge to it. And considering that the first murder doesn't happen until past the seventy minute mark, it doesn't live up to the promise of its poster or slasher underpinnings either. Christ, they actually had to add a subplot halfway through the movie just so they'd have someone to off.
Its biggest flaw though is just that so little of it makes any sense. Why does Linda accept a babysitter job the night of Halloween? Because her “agency” will drop her if she doesn't. What talent agency books babysitting jobs? Why is Steve Railsback's character in this movie? Did they just need filler? The little kid pretty much spends the entire movie fucking with the babysitter, and she keeps falling for his pranks. After the ninth or tenth prank, why doesn't she just tie him up somewhere? And don't get me started on how Jason's character spends half of the movie in drag and no one seems to notice. Because that's the joke, right? Okaaaay.
|Peter Jason (right) makes a new friend.|
Perhaps the biggest question is, if the script was such a disaster, why were there so many people in this? David Carradine was probably on set for a day, and was clearly winging it. Carrie Snodgrass was there because well, they apparently shot it in her house. But Railsback, Catherine E. “Log Lady” Coulson and Paul Bartel? I suppose the latter isn't too much of a surprise as he often cameoed in other people's genre films.
Regardless of its WTF nature, the babysitter/problem child/escaped maniac dynamic has always intrigued me and Trick or Treats is one of the very few instances where all three get equal play. So I'll take what I can get. The Vestron VHS & Code Red DVD releases are hard to find, but it is online if you feel so inclined.
Enjoy your Devil's Night, kiddies!