Retrospective: 35 Years Since the Ultimate Heavy Metal Horror Film ‘Trick or Treat’ By Jesse Striewski

Loud heavy metal guitars shooting lightning. Backwards subliminal messaging. And humpty dumpty exploding from a second story rafter. These are just a few of the things one gets from 1986’s Trick or Treat, the ultimate outcast horror film, and quite possibly, the best of its kind.

Directed by Charles Martin Smith and originally released on October 24 of that same year, it followed teenage rebel Eddie “Ragman” Weinbauer (played by Marc Price of Family Ties fame), a high school metalhead fed up with his jock bullies (lead by Doug Savant). When his rock n’ roll idol Sammi Curr (played by the late Tony Fields) dies unexpectedly, his world is thrown through a loop.

But thanks to a local DJ named Nuke (played brilliantly by KISS bassist Gene Simmons in his best Wolfman Jack impression), he’s given the last known recording by Curr. Upon playing the record backwards, he soon finds he has the power to communicate with – and even bring back from the dead – Curr. At first Curr aids Ragman in standing up to his tormentors, only to regret it when things quickly become deadly.

Ragman is then tasked with stopping Curr’s destructive path, and sets out to do just that with the help of some friends; the nerdy best friend Roger (Glen Morgan), and the lovely young maiden he has a crush on, Leslie (Lisa Orgolini). This eventually leads to a huge showdown at the high school Halloween dance, and the ensuing carnage make for some of the film’s best moments.

Hands down the music is one of standouts of the entire film. Rock supergroup Fastway, which originally featured ex-Motorhead and UFO members ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and Pete Way, respectively (as well as future Flogging Molly frontman Dave King) provided the soundtrack that acts as Curr’s music, and composer Christopher Young adds an extra eerie layer with his score (special effects wizard Kevin Yagher also cameos at the high school dance as one of the band members). And aside from Simmons’ previously mentioned cameo, there’s even a brief appearance by the one and only Ozzy Osbourne as a televangelist. I’ve been lucky enough to personally see Simmons, Osbourne, and even King all perform in concert since the film’s release (see photo below).

I can vividly recall watching Trick or Treat for the first time at one of those middle or high school sleepovers where someone brought a VHS copy they rented at the local video store. Not too far off from the character of Ragman myself at the time, I was easily able to relate to the film’s material, and have been a lifelong fan ever since. So if you’re staying in this Halloween and looking for something festive to watch that perhaps you haven’t seen before, fire up the old VCR, and get ready to Trick or Treat!

Gene Simmons (who appeared in the film as “Nuke”) performing on stage with KISS in Tampa, FL on 7/28/12 (photo courtesy of author’s personal collection).

Sebastian Bach at The Plaza Live on 11/2/18 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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The last time I caught former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach live, he was the supporting act for Guns N’ Roses back in 2006. Last Friday night’s show at The Plaza Live in Orlando somewhat paled in comparison to that of the larger, arena-sized production I saw him on years earlier. But despite this, those in attendance seemed to at the very least be having a hell of a time.

Young Canadians One Bad Son kicked off the night, ushering themselves onstage with the theme from “Rocky” before ripping into their set. Their style ranged from traditional heavy metal (“Scarecrows,” “Lost All Control”), to mainstream mediocrity (“It Ain’t Right”). Despite some of the most awkward silence I’ve ever witnessed at a live show in between songs,  the band truly got it right towards the end of their set with a cover of the Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer.”

Prong/Madonna (yes, you read that right) guitarist Monte Pittman (who the band gets its namesake from) was up next. It wasn’t until about halfway through their set I realized Pittman had devised a super-group of sorts, featuring Holy Grail bassist Eli Santana, as well as former Slayer/Testament drummer John Dette.

Pittman offered a wide range of various rock genres; from metal numbers worth banging your head to (“Changing of the Guard,” “Everything Undone,” “Skeleton Key,” etc..) to even acoustic numbers like “Depth of Perception.” All in all, Pittman’s set was one of the surprising highlights of the evening.

Finally, former (though not “original” – die hard fans will remember that title actually belongs to Matt Fallon) voice of Skid Row, Sebastian Bach, took stage some time after the 11 o’clock hour, appropriately kicking off his set with one from his ex-band’s glory days, “Slave to the Grind.”

The current lineup Bach has assembled for his band offers its own rock royalty as well, with Spread Eagle/UFO bassist Rob De Luca and Riot/Fates Warning drummer Bobby Jarzombek rounding out the rhythm section. Newcomer Brent Woods handled guitar duties admirably (though at one point he threw handfuls of guitar picks into the crowd in what appeared to be a fit of anger).

More tracks from both his work with Skid Row, as well as his solo catalog, quickly followed, including “Piece of Me,” “Dance on Your Grave,” “18 and Life,” “Here I Am,” and “The Threat” (a personal favorite of mine that I don’t recall him playing the last time I saw him, and was definitely not expecting to hear this time around, either!) before getting into the “big guns” (literally).

Once Bach and his band went into the massive 1989 hit “I Remember You,” fans were screaming for more. Which they quickly received, as he then broke out with a couple more from Skid Row’s debut album in the form of “Big Guns” and “Sweet Little Sister.” Bach somewhat lost the crowd for a second with a less-than-stellar joke (the punchline, “Motordead,” should give you an idea of what it entailed) before introducing the song “All My Friends Are Dead.”

Thankfully he was able to recover with the hard-hitting “American Metalhead” before lashing out some more classic Skid Row cuts in the form of “Monkey Business” (in which the band briefly segued into a nice cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” mid-way through), “Rattlesnake Shake,” and the classic anthem “Youth Gone Wild,” which would have made for more than a perfect ending to the night. But Bach hit the already-exhausted crowd with one last solo song (which the name of completely escapes me at the moment) before finally calling it a night.

Unfortunately this time around any and all material from Skid Row’s Subhuman Race album was completely omitted from his set list (if memory serves me right, he at least played “Breakin’ Down” that first time I caught him back in ’06). Even so, I’m glad to see he’s still out there giving it his all, night after night.

Bassist Eli Santana (also of Holy Grail) opening the show on stage with Monte Pittman.