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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Trick or Treats

TRICK OR TREATS (1982). Directed by Gary Graver. Starring Jackie Giroux, Peter Jason, and David Carradine.

It's Halloween! Well, almost. There may be a couple of days to go, but I just have to review a Halloween-themed movie for the occasion. We've all seen (or at least heard of) the Michael Myers Halloween series, so what's the point of going over one of them when I can take a look at a more obscure offering? And Trick or Treats is obscure for good reason.
Trick or Treats opens with businessman Malcolm O'Keefe (Peter Jason, a regular of John Carpenter movies...which just goes to emphasize this movie's debt to Carpenter's horror classic) being surprised by a visit from two men in white coats. It turns out his wife (Carrie Snodgress) is having him committed so that she can take control of his money, despite his protests that he's not crazy.
Well, if he wasn't then, he is by the time the movie picks up several years later. Mrs. O'Keefe is now remarried to a successful stage magician (David Carradine), and her son Christopher (played by the director's son Chris Graver) is all-too-eager to follow in his stepfather's footsteps, using his tricks and props to play morbid practical jokes. On Halloween night, Malcolm escapes from the asylum and heads home for revenge on his wife...unfortunately, she and her new husband have gone out that night, and the only ones home are his son and babysitter Linda (Jackie Giroux).
Director Gary Graver attempts to build suspense by alternating scenes of Malcolm's relentless journey home with scenes of the unsuspecting Linda putting up with Christopher's pranks. Unfortunately, the contrast between the two threads never gels, and they instead come across as two completely disconnected stories. Matters aren't helped by the fact that Malcolm's quest for vengeance is marked by comic relief, such as the asylum's malapropism-inclined nurse (Catherine Coulson, later to achieve cult fame as Twin Peaks' Log Lady), and an attempt to obtain street clothes by making a deal with a wino (a cameo by Paul Bartel). With such light moments along the way, the sense of danger never develops.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Although Gary Graver (whose Moon in Scorpio has been previously reviewed here) operated almost exclusively in B-movies (and even hardcore porn) as a director, his skill as a cinematographer brought him into contact with all levels of Hollywood personalities. Graver was well-liked by those he worked with, and so he was able to get many familiar names to work on his small projects. In the case of Trick or Treats, we get bit parts from the ever-popular David Carradine, Oscar-nominated Carrie Snodgress, Paul Bartel (on whose Eating Raoul Graver had served as second-unit photographer), and Steve Railsback (who does not interact at all with the other cast members on screen, only appearing in telephone conversations with Giroux). However, there was one Hollywood legend who worked on Trick or Treats in a surprising behind-the-scenes capacity: None other than Orson Welles, who shared his expertise in stage magic by acting as a consultant on the tricks demonstrated in the film.

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