For much of the 1980s, Ozzy Osbourne was the scourge of the moral majority. Whether biting the heads off assorted defenceless animals, urinating on the Alamo or wrong-headedly being accused by the PMRC of instructing his fans to kill themselves via his song Suicide Solution, he consistently provoked the ire of polite society.
All of which made his appearance in classic 1986 horror movie Trick Or Treat so brilliant. Rather than get him to play the kind of dissolute rock monster you’d expect, in a masterstroke or irony, the film-makers cast him as… a TV preacher! Yup, a man who was one of the religious right’s main targets playing a member of the religious right.
For anyone who hasn’t seen it, Trick Or Treat is one of the great cult movies of the VHS era. The plot follows young rock fan Eddie, who, after playing a record by his dead rock star idol Sammi Curr backwards, is haunted by Curr’s murderous ghost.
The 80s rock connections run deep. Curr’s songs were written and performed by Fastway, the real-life band put together by ex-Motörhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke. Kiss bassist Gene Simmons also popped up in the movie as a cowboy-hatted DJ.
But it’s Ozzy’s cameo that takes the honours. The former Black Sabbath singer makes a couple of appearances in the movie, playing “evangelist and moral crusader” Rev. Aaron Gilstrom, complete a with tie, waistcoat and neatly slicked-down hair.
Ozzy appears as a guest on a chat show playing in the background in a couple of brief but hilarious scenes. The first time we see him, he’s being asked a question about “rock pornography” and rock stars’ sense of humour.
“I think [rock stars] are just out and out sick people!” he declares in a fancy accent that barely displays a trace of the West Midlands. “They’re trying to make everyone around them, who listens to their music, as sick as they are.” He then proceeds to get flustered over the innuendo-laden lyrics of a song titled Do It Like A Dog (“Gonna drive my long steel missile down in your love channel”).
His second appearance is shorter but even cooler. It sees Ozzy straight-facedly lamenting the loss of “the good old simple love song… nowadays it's just absolutely sick and bizarre and I'm gonna do my utmost best to try and stop it.” As he ramps up the intensity, wagging his finger at the camera and intoning “These evil people have to be stopped”, his rant is brought to an abrupt end when Sammi Curr reaches into the TV screen and promptly electrocutes the good Reverend.
While neither the movie nor Ozzy’s performance was ever going to clean up at the Oscars, the singer more than held his own. The fact that it was his first time in front of the movie cameras made it even better.
"I think he liked playing the other end where he's the preacher, railing against people like himself,” producer Joel Soisson later said. “He was a delight, [but] he was so nervous… I think now he's a lot better before the camera, but back then acting was not an easy thing for him.” (By contrast, Soisson said that Gene Simmons “came in with a bit of an attitude”).
Trick Or Treat didn’t set the box office on fire, but at least it treated metal fans and the culture with a little bit of respect and tongue-in-cheek humour - which is more than can be said for other movies. And Ozzy’s acting chops didn’t give Robert De Niro any sleepless nights. But the movie remains a PMRC-era classic, and the Double O’s performance is a killer middle finger to his detractors.