Face-Off: Trick Or Treat's Sammi Curr vs. Shocker's Horace Pinker

There were a whole lot of slasher movies released in the 1980s, but there were also some shockers in the mix. The most obvious of the shockers is a villain named Horace Pinker, since he starred in the film SHOCKER. But three years before director Wes Craven attempted to start a new franchise with that film, villainous rock star Sammi Curr was manipulating electricity in director Charles Martin Smith's 1986 film TRICK OR TREAT. I recently took in a viewing of TRICK OR TREAT as part of my Halloween celebrations (as everyone should!), and while watching that film I started thinking about the similarities shared by Sammi Curr and Horace Pinker. And I started wondering who would come out the victor if they were ever to face off...
TRICK OR TREAT sets up its antagonist's evil dealings by opening with a quote from Faustus in which Faustus offers up his soul to Lucifer in exchange for the power to slay his enemies. Rock star Sammi Curr makes a similar deal, and unfortunately he sees nearly everyone as his enemy. The news reports that Curr has died in a hotel fire, but he was actually gaining immortality in that fire - the film's hero has a vision in which he sees that Curr was conducting a Satanic ritual while his hotel room (and other people) burned around him. We're not shown Curr's deal in great detail, but we get enough information to know what's going on, and that information is delivered in an interesting, creepy way.
In his natural life, Horace Pinker was a serial killer whose m.o. was to break into homes in the middle of the night and wipe out entire families. When he's captured by the police, they find evidence that he has been delving into black magic and animal sacrifice... and right before he's to be led from his cell to the electric chair, he makes the ultimate deal with the forces of evil. A deal that involves candles, some spell books, and jumper cables hooked to a TV. Pinker demands power, and a pair of lips emerge from the TV screen to tell him, "You got it, baby." It's a very bonkers, cartoony moment, and it marks the point at which the film dives into over-the-top madness.
Curr was an '80s rock star in life, and he carries that style with him into the afterlife, although he now sports a large burn scar on the side of his face. He carries a determination to nail everyone who might stand against him, and will offer no mercy... but he will take some time out to perform a show like in the old, pre-death days. A gloriously '80s character, Curr believes in rock 'n roll and despises false metal, and if you really want to piss him off, just dare to call him a poser.
Pinker is a foul, nasty bastard, a disgusting human being on every level. The crimes he commits are horrendous, and before he started murdering families he would terrorize his own family, beating his wife and young child. Oddly, this intensely despicable character is also given some groan-inducing one liners to drop at various moments: one minute, he'll be saying something terrible, the next he'll be making KFC and Volkswagen cracks that are even worse, in a different way.
In his life after death, Curr is able to control, and travel through, electrical current. When he emerges into the world, he likes to do so through something music-related, whether it be speakers, stereos, or amps. At the high school Halloween party he had previously been banned from playing (before he died), Curr takes the stage and rocks the crowd - then starts firing blasts of electricity from the end of his guitar, zapping audience members out of existence. He can also send electricity flowing directly through his hands, which causes the end of a couple characters.
Since Pinker dies in the electric chair and got his immortality from some kind of TV demon, it makes sense that he can control electrical current in his post-death. He can emerge through anything electrical, whether it be stepping out of a TV screen or making a vibrating recliner attack someone, and becomes even more powerful when he finds himself on a satellite dish and gets beamed out nationwide. Pinker doesn't shock anybody to death, for some reason he seems to prefer shooting and stabbing over electrocuting. Electricity is primarily his mode of travel.
Before Curr takes physical form and starts blasting electricity, he's presented as being a ghost of sorts. He communicates with his biggest fan through backwards messages on his latest recording, and helps the kid get revenge on his bullies by offering advice... and by making electrical devices turn on at certain moments. Curr's spirit can also control cars. The most stunning, and craziest, display of Curr's abilities comes when a bully's girlfriend listens to his music on a Walkman. Green energy flows from the earphones, over the girl's body, turning her on and taking her clothes off. The mood is ruined when a long-tongued demon, a creature Curr has tattooed on his chest, appears in front of the girl.
Before Pinker starts zapping himself all over the place and emerging from electrical objects in his original physical form, he survives post-execution by jumping from body to body, possessing people through a flow of electricity that passes between them. During this stretch of the movie, Pinker's essence takes over several different people, giving multiple actors the chance to play the character as he torments the hero. This sort of seems like an unnecessary step in the process (why not just get to the electricity stuff straight from the electric chair?), but it's fun to see Pinker in all these different forms, whether it be a police officer, a road worker, or a little girl.
Sammi Curr has a major weakness in that he can only continue to exist as long as his final recording is out there in the world - and there are only a few copies of it. Some of those are destroyed rather easily, but there's still a tape that's set to play over the radio at midnight on Halloween, and if that happens a lot of people are going to die. Luckily for our hero, it only takes a "poser" taunt to distract Curr long enough for that tape to be destroyed while the electrical being is dropped into a body of water. This ending may feature a car going off a bridge, but it's still underwhelming.
The ending of SHOCKER is completely nuts, involving Pinker and the hero fighting their way through TV sets and the television stations showing on those TV sets - they crash the news, fight on a televangelist's stage, show up on an episode of Leave It to Beaver and in Universal's FRANKENSTEIN. Given the ability to travel through TV land by the love of his murdered girlfriend, the hero ends up trapping Pinker there by arranging a blackout. It makes no sense, and I see no reason why Pinker couldn't return as soon as the power is restored, but this climax is quite a thing to behold.
Sammi Curr once sang, "I'm gonna get you / Get you after midnight / Shock you / Shock you 'til the sparks fly."

That's a threat to be taken seriously, as Curr is obviously a force to be reckoned with, coming out the victor in this Face-Off. It's somewhat shocking that the shocker from the film titled SHOCKER would come in second place, but Curr bests him in nearly every category. He may not be able to possess people (as far as we know), but Curr is a cooler character who puts his electricity-manipulating powers to better use... and he didn't have to get those powers from TV lips. His long-tongued demon nearly caused a tie in the "Other Abilities" category; Pinker's off-the-wall demise is where I find that SHOCKER most clearly came out on top.

Do you agree with this outcome, or do you prefer Horace Pinker over Sammi Curr? Let us know your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment. If you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send those to me at [email protected].



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