'Trick': Film Review

Trick Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of RLJE Films
A slasher film with a dull edge.

A supposedly dead, masked serial killer reappears every Halloween in Patrick Lussier's horror film starring Omar Epps.

Halloween used to be an enjoyable holiday. Now it's essentially an excuse for distributors to dump as many sub-par horror films into the marketplace as possible to satisfy moviegoers' apparently insatiable demand for October gore. The latest example proves a particular disappointment, since its director Patrick Lussier and co-screenwriter Todd Farmer were previously responsible for such enjoyable guilty pleasures as My Bloody Valentine and Drive Angry. Unfortunately, their latest collaboration, Trick, is definitely no treat.  

The story kicks off on Halloween night (of course), when a group of college students are playing a game of Spin the Bottle at a costume party. They're using a knife instead of a bottle, which provides a not-so-subtle hint that things aren't going to go particularly well. Sure enough, when Patrick "Trick" Weaver (Thom Niemann) spins the knife and it stops in the direction of another man, Patrick, possibly gripped by the worst case of homosexual panic ever, slashes all of the players to death. But not without getting stabbed himself.

Patrick gets captured by the police and brought to the hospital, but if you think that's the end of him you just haven't seen enough horror films. Sure enough, he breaks free from his restraints and wreaks more havoc before getting shot five times by detective Mike Denver (Omar Epps). Trick falls out a window and staggers to a nearby river, where he falls in, apparently dead, although his body is never found.

As anyone who's seen any of the Halloween movies knows, psycho killers don't stay dead, and they have a particular fondness for All Saints' Eve. So it comes as no surprise, to the audience at least, when a masked killer goes on a rampage the following Halloween and reappears annually on the same holiday. Although his colleagues insist that it must be a copycat, Denver becomes convinced that it's the same man he supposedly killed years earlier.

Like its titular character, the film goes down an extremely predictable path, mainly buying time between killing sprees in which the creepily masked villain stabs as many people as possible with his knife, which has the words "Trick" and "Treat" engraved on alternate sides. Along the way, he's relentlessly pursued by Denver, who becomes obsessed with the case, and a local sheriff (Ellen Adair) who eventually comes to believe Denver's theory.

Director Lussier certainly doesn't hold back on the gore, delivering a seemingly endless series of extremely graphic killings. Most of them are of the routine (at least for slasher movies) variety, with the exception of one offbeat sequence in which Trick veers from his usual method and murders a cop by propelling the tombstone — of a previous law enforcement victim, no less — through a car windshield.

The pic might have proved mindless fun if it had least displayed a sense of humor, but everything is played with deadly seriousness. Epps goes through his formulaic paces with admirable commitment, but it's hard not to feel sorry for him when he's forced to utter such lines as "This is pure evil. This kid is goddamn darkness personified."

It seems particularly perverse when some college kids are shown watching the original Night of the Living Dead (it's no coincidence that George Romero's classic is in the public domain) and react with derision. "God, this movie is boring!" one of them mutters, apparently unaware of the movie he's in.

There's an attempt at cleverness via a twist ending involving the true identity of the killer, but considering that he wears a mask throughout it doesn't exactly come as a major surprise. Perhaps the one saving grace is the presence of 83-year-old Tom Atkins (The Fog, Creepshow) as the owner of a haunted house attraction. The veteran horror film actor delivers exactly the sort of entertainingly winking performance the pic desperately needed.

Production companies: Durango Pictures, Film Bridge International
Distributor: RLJE Films
Cast: Omar Epps, Tom Atkins, Jamie Kennedy, Ellen Adair, Kristina Reyes, Vanessa Aspillaga
Director: Patrick Lussier
Screenwriters: Todd Farmer, Patrick Lussier
Producers: Ellen Wander, Ita Kennedy
Executive producers: Michael Covell, Frederik Zander, Marcelo Gandola, Jason Garrett, David Rogers
Director of photography: Amanda Treyz
Production designer: Deana Sidney
Editor: Tommy Aagaard
Composer: Michael Wandmacher
Costume designer: Beth Anne Kelleher
Casting: Judy Bowman

97 minutes