You know you’ve found the right video when there’s a goddamned McDonald’s Halloween pail on the cover:
(Look close. That’s totally McGoblin.)
Released in 1990, Halloween: Trick or Treat was the first in a long series of order-by-mail videos collectively known as The Pagan Invasion. Made by a Christian production company, the series warned God-fearing people about the occult’s secret infiltration of everyday society. It’s essentially propaganda meant to make you think twice about having fun with spooky stuff, because Jesus don’t play that.
The first tape focuses exclusively on Halloween, and by the end of it, they outright say that no good Christian should celebrate it. It’s cheesy and it’s ridiculous and I’m hardly the first person to notice that, but this video is also a secret treasure trove for Halloween and horror fans.
The footage is amazing, with shots of costume shops, video stores and even home video conventions from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. If you tune out the hosts, it’s such a treat to see. (I’d go so far to say that the producers admonished with one hand and baited with the other, praying for our souls while preying on our desire to wallow in spooky, awesome stuff.)
The interviews are just as fascinating. A few are with former satanists (complete with helpful chyron identifying them as such) who tell horrible stories that cannot possibly be true, unless I’m to really believe that they chose this direct-to-video series as a forum to dish on murders they’d personally witnessed. Those segments felt like a mix of Unsolved Mysteries and the iffiest 20/20 exposé, so of course I loved them.
The whole video is already on YouTube and comes with my strongest (if weirdest) recommendation, but I took the time to clip out some of the especially interesting segments. Watch ‘em below!
Every video in the series opens with this ludicrous Pagan Invasion intro, set to music that sounds like John Carpenter scoring a Holy Communion. For real, I need to strip that shit out and turn it into an MP3.
All the while, we’re spinning around some old computer game castle, which feels a bit like a medieval version of Doom.
We end with a montage of shots meant to illustrate the breadth of occult influences in modern society. I concede that most of the shots were applicable enough, but they also toss in stuff like people breaking wood at karate competitions. At least they cut it to the music?
After the hosts settle in (and by “settle in” I mean settle into the same ridiculous computer game castle from the intro, and then stay there for the full hour), we lead into kickass footage of Halloweenified costume shops and department stores.
You’ll notice that several shots are from a late ‘80s Kmart, which means that this video would’ve gotten an A+ even if it ended here.
The shots of homes decorated for the season and trick-or-treaters knocking on doors were obviously staged, but they still reflect the era well enough.
Course, in terms of editorial content, there’s much more to unpack. They basically say, “Yeah, you THINK Halloween is all fun and games, but it’s actually about paying tribute to Satan and fuuuuck that noise.” The hosts knock the school system for embracing Halloween art projects, and even take a swipe at churches for not disavowing the holiday. Lord knows that all of those hand turkey ghosts I made in the 2nd grade were what sent me down the dark path.
They also point fingers at costume makers for trading Halloween’s more cartoony icons for gorier imagery, I guess because wearing the mask of a snake demon with an open wound makes you want to become one yourself.
Here’s the thing, though: If you take this tape as pure entertainment, it’s absolutely bitchin’. Old school shots of Halloween crap? Count me in. Ascribing dread and terror to things as benign as carved fruit and latex masks? Well thanks for making Halloween sound even cooler!
Halloween: Trick or Treat shines brightest in this section, where the hosts cry foul over horror movies. They aren’t the first people to call them gateway drugs to real life violence, but since they’re doing it over shots of videocassette kiosks from 1990, they’re the first ones I paid close attention to.
HOLY SHIT @ this footage! The montage shows horror movies displays from video stores and retail chains, and there’s even wild footage from a 1990 movie distribution convention. (Getting to see a shrink-wrapped copy of Corpse Grinders complete with its “9.99” price sticker was especially thrilling.)
The male host makes several questionable claims throughout this segment. My favorite had to be the insinuation that “many” horror movies are made with real life witches and satanists as consultants, which is something that has happened, but certainly not as often (or with as much meaning) as God Guy wanted us to believe. Like OH NO, don’t watch Black Cat Spookyville III, they hired A WICCAN to arrange the candles!
Then there’s the usual condemnation of horror movies for inspiring copycat killers, which again is something that has happened, but in the same way that literally every possible permutation of everything has happened. It might be a conversation worth having, but when it’s being started by the same dude who just told kids to stop drawing pumpkins in school, it feels a bit facile.
The tape is loaded with interviews. Most were with perfectly lovely people who happened to identify as witches, and who were apparently unaware that they’d agreed to do interviews for an anti-them documentary. (Again, if you want to see all of the segments, the whole show is on YouTube.)
Far saucier are the interviews with former satanists. Oh, man! I want to be delicate here, because they’re talking about the sorts of criminal acts that have happened , and I don’t want to “be funny” about stuff like ritual sacrifice. Still, you’d be making an incredible leap of faith to believe any of these people.
Take Glenn Hobbs, for example. According to Glenn, he was raised to be a satanic high priest, and was eventually forced to murder his childhood “bride.” It’s a scary story, sure, but could anyone really believe it? I mean, the dude is just sitting there in a backyard casually admitting that he kinda killed someone. Glenn is the guy who hastily applies for Sightings after Robert Stack deems him “too cockamamie.”
To stick with the tape’s theme, Glenn argues that Halloween is a hotbed for satanic activity, and that satanists use the general public’s passion for it as a smokescreen. Call me crazy, but I don’t know if “stop carving pumpkins” would be my first cause if I was a reformed satanist who once regularly witnessed the slaughter of children.
Only at the very end of the video do the hosts show their full hand, finally proclaiming that Halloween exists as an insult to Jesus. I don’t agree, and I also hate the way the male host kept trying to moisten his lips in-between soliloquies. Yo, editors? That’s why you have B-roll.
I will compliment the chefs for one thing: Teaching me that witches’ brooms are meant to represent big giant penises. Can’t wait to pull that one out the next time I’m at a near-stranger’s wedding. (I mean the trivia, not the penis.)
All in all, I know I’ve poked fun, but this is one fantastic video. ‘80s and ‘90s Halloween nostalgia mixed with the same “occult exposé” stuff that I already gobble up like candy? Hell yeah!