Friday, October 26, 2012

Trick or Treats (1982)

Gary Graver must have been in competition with a fellow filmmaker to see who could make a film with more padding. That’s all that “Trick or Treats” is! Pointless scene after pointless scene after pointless scene. Occasionally, he’d grace us with a scene that furthers the plot. I guess there was an asterik in the contract that stated the filmmaker must at least have a coherent story.

Graver picked a genre that allows for a lot of padding. “Trick or Treats” is a slasher film set on Halloween. It’s about a babysitter who is being stalked by an escaped mental patient. For some reason, this plot makes me think of a William Shatner mask. The psychopath doesn’t wear a mask and, at the beginning, seems quite normal. He’s a millionaire minding his own business by the pool when his wife calls the mental institution on him. Two guards chase him around his backyard until they strap him in a straight jacket.

This scene, as well as many others, are played out in a comedic tone. The whole film almost is, in fact. “Trick or Treats” is labeled as a horror, but is more of a comedy. Graver consistently builds to punch lines, not tension. I wouldn’t criticize this so harshly, as a lot of the “Friday the 13th” films do the same. The difference between those films and this is that the payoff is satisfactory.

Admittedly, some of the padding in the film works. The rich brat that Linda (Jackelyn Giroux) is babysitting is a miniature Houdini and devises quite a few amusing pranks on her. The first time she meets him is when he uses his makeshift guillotine (which, apparently, has a real fucking blade) to look as if his head was sliced. He also uses these gags to hit on her. He pretends to drown later in the film solely to have her give him CPR. These gags run their course pretty quickly, but the young actor is quite charismatic, making most of them work.

Even the killer (whose name I honestly can’t remember) has his fair share of comedic moments. When we hear of his plan to break out of the asylum, he’s confiding in a fellow patient. Said patient is a Robin Williams impersonator who cackles maniacally. In fact, all of the patients dementia are painted in broad strokes. It can be a hoot to watch, if not insulting to those dealing with mental issues.

The killer finally escapes after attacking a nurse and stealing her clothing. He spends half of the film prowling the streets pretending to be a woman. The town is full of morons as the men constantly hit on him. I guess they couldn’t notice the hairy arms and huge Adam’s Apple. He finally ditches the clothing after holding a homeless man up with a knife and stealing his clothes. He never hurts the man, though.

That’s the peculiar thing about him. He never kills any of his victims. Both the nurse and the homeless man were spared. We know his motivation is to track down and punish his wife and her new hubby (played by David Carradine, of all people) for locking him in an insane asylum. He doesn’t seem to hold beef with anybody else. He even feels remorse when he accidentally attacks a woman he believed to be his wife. This causes confusion for the viewer, as one can’t tell if we’re supposed to despise him or sympathize with him. Graver never makes it quite clear.

Remember how I briefly mentioned David Carradine earlier? That’s because characters come in and out in this film to pass the time. Linda has a boyfriend who’s acting in a play that constantly calls her. There are only two reasons he exists. One is to pad the film. The second is to taunt Linda when she gets mysterious calls from the killer and accidentally snaps on him. She has a few friends that pop up near the end (who are film editors who believe that they make the film and the directors take all of the credit) that do the exact same thing.

Do you understand what I’m getting at? This film practically has nothing going for it. It’s got a basic plot and does almost nothing of importance with it. Sure, some of the humor does work and (barely) keeps the viewer’s attention. That evaporates quickly when it becomes recycled and goes nowhere. The only other aspect holding one’s attention is that it’s on Halloween. For those of you that love the holiday like I do, seeing decorations and kids trick or treating is enchanting.

Oh, and the film is set in Las Vegas. This is said in passing once and only shown via a shot of a casino once. Any other time it seems as if we’re in any other town in the United States (say Haddonfield, for example). Why set the film in Las Vegas and never do anything with it? Why not just place it in a regular town? It’s infuriating!

MVT: I don’t know the actor’s name, but the kid who played the rich brat. That kid had spunk and made his drawn out scenes marginally watchable!

Make or Break: Not one scene in particular, but the sixty minute mark. This film is a little over eighty minutes and, by that time, nothing had actually happened. That broke the film for me and proved that Graver didn’t care about tension or character development.

Final Score: 3.75/10

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