At the same time let's look at a film that does fit nicely into this season, but will never top anyone's list of To See Horror Films (I think, you can prove me wrong if you'd like.).
The topic is awkward to me as I do try and focus on movies I genuinely enjoy for what they are, and this film does have interesting points to it...Still, I am not interested in tearing down movies. It's a common enough past time for so many online.
But this film drives viewers to ask themselves so many questions. Like, "Why?" Or, "Why?!" Or even, "WHY?!"
|When you slowly start to wonder if movie your watching is trolling you.|
So, I guess, where some ask, "Why?", I'll be asking, "Why not?" ...sigh...
Let's look at one of the variety of movies that decided to take a variation of the name Trick or Treat, and see if we can find treats amidst it's WAY TOO MANY tricks.
And remember, every horror movie marathon needs it Lunch Break/Nap Time/Gotta Make a Call movie. This may be the one for you.
Trick or Treats
This 1982 film is the creation of Gary Graver, who wrote and directed this movie (and got his young son a major role in the movie). His career has tended towards smaller films, much of it being adult movies (I seen a number of people use this as a reason to complain about the movie and Graver's directing, and that seems ridiculous.). This was his attempt to either enter into, or give his take on, the slasher movie genre. (And being 1982, it was the time everyone was trying to get into that game.)
Trick or Treats is about a babysitter/struggling actress (Jacqueline Giroux) who is on a babysitting job. It is Halloween night, and she is stuck n a strange house until the next day. She's taking care of a precocious pain in the ass (Chris Graver), who likes magic and loves tormenting with a range of pranks (And my opinion on pranks is well established. Yeesch.).
When he gets there, death is certain.
That sounds simple enough right? It may not scream amazing, but it seems solid enough for a low end slasher that were rife in the period. It's worth watching late night when you can't sleep. The trouble comes when you fill in the gaps to get to a 90 some minute movie.
A lot of the time gets made up with long pieces of dialogue that go nowhere, move nothing forward, or provoke any interesting ideas. A lot of the rest of the film is made up of the Pain the Ass Kid's escalating pranks on his babysitter. Over and over he fakes his death, fakes severe injuries, tries to startle her. It just wears on you, and you actually start rooting for the killer to get there and kill him. (Among his "jokes" is to fake his drowning in the pool. She freaks out and dives in after him, and tries to resuscitate him. She thinks she failed, and he pops up laughs at her and runs away. Fuck this kid!)
But what really annoys me about this is that the kid and his antics go nowhere. She does think the kid is faking the calls to her for most of the movie, but that is the end of the impact. I was expecting that, maybe, her early on telling the kid about "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" would lead to her ignoring him when he sees the killer coming. But no. I thought his magic, pranks, and sneaking skill would come into play as he tries to evade and outsmart the killer. Nope. It is amazing, these parts of the movie seem to only exist to torment the babysitter and us.
The running time was also used to have scenes of secondary characters that go nowhere. Like the babysitter calling her boyfriend (Steve Railsbach). They talk a number of times on the phone, and they show him on another set getting ready to act in a play. So you might think he will have an effect, or come over to the house, add to the body count. Nope.
|"Should we cut our scene from this movie?"|
Another time they cut to two women in an editing bay cutting a horror movie. They talk about movie editing for some time, horror movies, and then watch clips from a fake cheesy horror movie for a few minutes. Then the babysitter calls them to get film of herself from the movie they are working on, so she can give it to her agent. So one of them ends up going over to the house, where she is almost immediately killed (And this is the only person the killer kills in this movie.). All the time put into that and it was to get a poorly shot death scene. (It was pitch black, and at first I thought she was strangled until I saw a reflection on a bloody knife.) (Also, this role was played by the director's wife.) We get two chances to get people to the house to add to the body count/have more people fleeing the killer, and this is what we are left with.
Then we have the mom (Carrie Snodgrass) of the Pain in the Ass and her husband/boyfriend (Surprisingly, not made clear.)(David Carradine). They are planning to leave last minute to go to a Halloween party overnight. So the kid is stuck at home with a sitter. They are dressing in, maybe, magicians outfits. It may be this is just their Halloween costumes, or, with all magic paraphernalia in the house, they may actually be a magic act (Again. They don't make things clear.). They are heading out to the airport, after dark, to fly to Vegas to be at a party. Writing this now it still seems like a weird scenario.
So the sitter is stuck with the kid that is pissed off and prank prone. But it's a job. And then we get this amazingly uncomfortable scene of the stepdad(?) hitting on the babysitter. He keeps walking into her personal space and saying suggestive things to her. He's drunk, dancing around, and then is out of the movie. The mom only reappears to call the house a little into the film, and she's gone as well.
|Well I see everything is going to plan.|
Moving past the film's padding, there's the issue of how it conveys information. At the start of the movie we open on a couple eating breakfast by their pool. The wife seems nervous and the husband seems distracted and moody. The wife leaves and lets in two men from the psychiatric hospital. They are there to pick up her husband. And they get in a 5 minute scrap as they climb trees and fight in a pool (It's a long wordless scene.). What is unclear in the scene is why? Why is he being taken? On who's authority? And much of the film works like this. It gives background information on things that are less relevant than things we could use information about.
And example of this is after this scene. We get a screen saying several years have past. So it's left vague how long has past. Then many scenes later we go to the husband in the psych ward. And, yes, he is our killer (Peter Jason. A great character actor in things like Deadwood, Mad Men, 48 Hours, In The Mouth of Madness, Alien Nation, They Live, Arachnophobia, Village of the Damned, Escape from LA, etc.). He's held and thinks it's outrageous that he's still there. Though the doctor in the scene makes it clear he is a disturbed individual. Dangerous.
But some descriptions of the film suggest that the wife had her husband locked up to get his money. But nothing in the movie even suggests this. Even in the first scene here reactions are muddled. Some things are missing from this movie to help connect it all together. The creepy stepdad jokes that he inherited the house because he's smart, but he's drunk and trying to seem witty as he leers at the babysitter, so I don't know how to take anything he says. Beyond that it seems that killer is a real dangerous threat.
|"Wait. Am I supposed to know who this kid is?"|
It is similar with the child being babysat. Is this the killer's son? He isn't mentioned in the first scene. And the killer never brings him up, he just wants his house back. But when he breaks into the house, and finds the kids asleep, he (frustratingly) doesn't kill the kid. And at the end of the movie, when the killer dies, the kid doesn't seem to recognize him. Or, the film omits any indications. (While in the psych ward another patient say the killer has been there 4 years. So the kid would logically be his. Or, he came with creepy stepdad....creepy dad then...So confusing!)
In movie making you can leave things vague, and open to interpretation. It is all part of the art of film making. But their is a distinction between leaving an audience baffled and leaving an audience pondering.
Issues with lighting, the look of sets, and how camera work is done come up often in these old slasher films. They are faults and hurdles that filmmakers can overcome. But when the story is so muddled and the editing leaves your scratching your head, we the viewers have problems.
You can have scenes shot like these, and still have a fun enjoyable film.
|Aha! So Cinematography is the killer.|
|Okay, everyone! Crowd in, we don't want this to not look fake.|
|"Now, excuse me, I want to escape this void."|
And, yes, that is the Log Lady from Twin Peaks. Cool, right?
But the way this film is constructed, you have to be in a certain sort of mood, or just need some filler in your marathon. I appreciate the effort in this film, but in a period where Michael and Jason were starting out, and When A Stranger Calls and Terror Train are out, this is such a miss.
I also hold it against this movie that for several blissful minutes I convinced myself that the killer had killed the kid. That was cruel movie.
Oh, and what the hell was with the ending? At a bare minimum the kid should've yelled, "Trick or treats!", before swinging that knife. It's the name of your movie!
I do apologize for this review getting out late, I was travelling and a storm knocked out my Internet connection for awhile.