Every Halloween on Retro Slashers I mention Gary Graver’s Trick Or Treat (1982). A movie deeply underloved, even by the slasher crowds that hold Don’t Go In The Woods Alone and The Prey up as pinnacles of retro-slasherdom. Last year’s gratuitous mention warranted some speckled comments killing the movie criticism and worse – indifference.
Still, as if a minor form of rebellion I’ll be mentioning this movie every year and putting it out there as an orphan that fell between the cracks. It requires the love of some very understanding people. Are you one of them?
A babysitter is stuck watching over a young brat on Halloween night who keeps playing vicious pranks on her. To add to her trouble the boy’s deranged father has escaped from an asylum and is planning on making a visit.
Addressing the major concerns, it largely taking place in almost real-time, so if you’re not prepared for that it can come off as plodding. And it does have more in common with an afterschool special than a by-the-numbers body count flick. But, there’s a sense of trying to escape the shackles of what was expected in the era and instead have some fun. It rings true to the very nature of trick or treating. Very few 80’s genre movies actually dared to use a Halloween concept after John Carpenter’s Halloween, instead opting to ape its less specific elements of consecutive killing and virtuous heroines, but like Sleepaway Camp is to Friday The 13th, Trick or Treats technically does cover more of the base location or holiday then its famous forefather. That’s got to count for something. And surely no one is stupid enough to pick up this movie expecting another Michael Myers, right?
The terrible truth that keeps this movie bogged down in the gutter of the genre scene is its scarce availiblity – it has never been released on DVD. I don’t mean the format, using VHS masters don’t count. I mean a real DVD. Widescreen, with a cleaned up print. It is commonly written off as a too-murky movie, but consider it was directed by the late Gary Graver – one of the expert cinematographers out there. See his work on Mortuary and They’re Playing With Fire to understand his masterful use of shadow and darkness as characters. The limitations of video transfers at the time are the real culprits. So unfortunately, it won’t be until a proper home release that this film gets the respect it deserves – or at least put it on a level playing field visually.