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Trick or Treats (1982)
DIRECTOR: Gary Graver
SCREENWRITER: Gary Graver
MUSIC BY: N/A
STUDIO: Lone Star Pictures
RELEASE DATE: October 29, 1982
MPAA RATING: R
The Tagline Is Absolutely Correct

Written by Chris Pandolfi

The tagline on the poster of Trick or Treats reads, ď...when Halloween night stopped being fun!Ē Rare for an incomplete sentence conjured up by a marketing department to so accurately describe the film itís attached to. Not only is this movie not fun, itís painfully incompetent. Itís a horror movie with no scares, a comedy without laughs. The story is so rife with plot holes and inconsistencies that one wonders if the screenplay fell victim to a pair of scissors. The dialogue is about as believable as a three-dollar bill. The performances are so bad, it makes the unintentional camp of Glen or Glenda seem Oscar worthy. Everything about this film is so shoddy that I actually wished it was a ripoff of genre hits like Halloween or Friday the 13th.

Iím typically the first to denounce the gore and violence thatís glorified in slasher films, especially when female characters are subjected to them. Trick or Treats is entirely devoid of murder sequences until the final fifteen minutes. Up until that point, itís a repetitive, long-winded narrative build-up with awful character development and the occasional stray into unconvincing, inconsequential subplots. It was so plodding that I gave my morality a rest and actually yearned for constant death scenes. They might have relieved me of my boredom. Then again, maybe they wouldnít have; the few kills we end up seeing are so awkwardly shot, so badly paced, and so poorly performed that they generate no visceral thrills.

It tells the story of an aspiring actress (Jackelyn Giroux) whoís forced into babysitting on Halloween night due to finances. As the night progresses, and between pointless interludes of handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, she repeatedly falls victim to the pranks of the boy she babysits (Chris Graver), a malicious brat whose room is a shrine of magic tricks. Although the kid canít be more than eight or nine years old, heís so off-putting that, so help me God, I actually wanted him to end up getting killed. Even though the babysitter tries unsuccessfully to instill within the kid the message of ďThe Boy Who Cried Wolf,Ē sheís gullible enough to fall for his tricks almost every time.

Meanwhile, the boyís father (Peter Jason) escapes from a mental institution and vows revenge against his ex-wife (Carrie Snodgress), who had him committed four years earlier for reasons never given. The best we get is the very opaque impression that sheís a cold-hearted golddigger, as evidenced by her current marriage to a rich lecherous creep played by David Carradine. Anyway, the fatherís escape involves him dressing in drag as one of the institutionís nurses and simply walking out the front door. I donít know if the ďcomedyĒ is supposed to stem from the fact that he wanders the streets in drag or that several men are inexplicably convinced by his disguise and try to hit on him. Either way, itís not funny. Itís just pathetic.

The subplots that are interwoven throughout are embarrassing, not just because theyíre just as badly acted as all the others, but also because they prove either distantly related to the main plot or altogether unnecessary. They also reveal several gaps in logic. Consider the babysitterís periodic phone conversations with her boyfriend (Steve Railsback), always seen backstage at a performance of Othello; one wonders how he knew the number of the home sheís babysitting at, since we never hear her giving it to him. Also consider a lengthy scene of two young women at a studio editing together a B-grade horror movie; it takes way too long for their significance to be revealed. And then consider the mother and her new husband, who caught a flight to Las Vegas, disembarked the plane, and checked into their hotel in what seemed to be less than an hour. Why theyíre in Vegas at all is never explained. In fact, I seem to remember them saying that they would be spending Halloween at some party.

Itís amazing just how badly all this is photographed. Writer/director/editor/producer Gary Graver also acted as his own cinematographer, which is to say that he relied only on whatever lighting was already available to him in the rooms of the house. The result is a picture that isnít shadowy so much as muddy and dim. My guess is Graver also acted as his own cameraman, given the inordinate number of uninterrupted shots that make the whole thing feel like an amateur home movie. And my God, the music; no composer credit is given, which I guess means that every cue, which is to an orchestra what canned laughter is to an audience, came from a stock sound library. Watching Trick or Treats forces one to wonder how some movies manage to find their way into theaters.


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