Trick marks the third collaboration from horror heroes Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, following 2009’s My Bloody Valentine and 2011’s Drive Angry. It bears some of the hallmarks of their previous films, as well as the usual, keen sense of what makes the best horror movies work. Its many disparate elements don’t necessarily form a cohesive whole but, for the most part, Trick works as exactly what it is.
I’m not sure the definitions of the word “trick,” which kick off the film in a solemn, and disconcertingly serious manner, are strictly necessary (though they do feed into the story in the final act…sort of) but the opening, at a teenager-filled Halloween party, is a great bit of setup. It’s here we’re introduced to the creepy Trick, or Patrick, who refuses to take his mask off and is quite clearly a serial killer (who invited him in the first place?).
During a rousing game of dark Spin the Bottle, utilizing a Ouija-like game board and a knife with “trick” carved on one side and “treat” on the other, the titular character reveals himself to be a bloodthirsty psychopath, swiftly dispatching with several party-goers in one fell swoop. He’s taken into custody but escapes during questioning, is shot several times, and then falls out a window. This all happens on Halloween night 2015.
Fast forward to a year later, and another massacre occurs just upriver. The following year, another, and so on and so on until Halloween 2019 (prescient?) when Trick is supposedly coming home to wreak revenge on the town that made him. As the police hunt down a serial killer who’s assumed dead, the survivors of the original attack gather to celebrate the spooky season and, hopefully, continue to stay alive.
Trick boasts two parallel story-lines, both reasonably compelling, which come together as the film trundles on. The cops, played with great efficiency by Omar Epps and Ellen Adair (she’s his superior, which is a nice touch and marks our second female sheriff in horror in as many years following Another Wolfcop), tussle over whether Trick is still alive. His Detective Denver believes solidly that he is, while Sheriff Jayne is less convinced.
As the film takes place over several years, the relationship between Denver and Jayne is teased out. It frays and changes as time wears on. He can’t let the case go, but she has to move on, only to be forced to turn to Denver again (now retired) when the clues start piling up once more. Their easy chemistry sells Trick‘s more dubious moments, as the story grows more convoluted and crazy.
On the other hand is Kristina Reyes’ likeable Cheryl who bears more than a passing resemblance to the mighty AOC and just wants to get on with her life but finds it impossible when Trick’s insignia starts popping up everywhere, seemingly to taunt her (it’s worth noting the various looks the killer sports are great and evocative). Although Lussier and Farmer are arguably sequel baiting, there’s no doubt Trick himself looks pretty cool.
Slowly, it’s revealed that not only did this highly disturbed kid have no fixed residence and a a Satanic altar in his locker, as you do, but his online presence was non-existent which is, obviously, completely unthinkable nowadays. In contrast, since his various killings and supposed death made national news, an online cult has sprang up, who emulate him and dress like Juggalos to pay homage to his look. “He’s viral,” a cop deadpans at one point.
This point was touched on in the highly underrated Jigsaw too but here, without spoiling anything, it feeds into the narrative in an entirely different way. How much you buy into Trick‘s many reveals (and there are A LOT) will be based on your general enjoyment of the flick and its madcap, often scattershot energy, but Lussier and Farmer certainly set everything up well. Even if, by the end, it starts to feel like a particularly far-fetched conspiracy thriller.
Trick himself remains something of an enigma, purposely so, but he’s surprisingly good at parkour, feels incredibly stabby, and as Denver gravely intones, really likes pumpkins. Still, the fact Trick is a regular ol’ white boy weirdo with a rabid online following is a timely choice for this character. His intentions are never laid bare, rightly so, but there’s a sense of pathetic desperation about Trick, almost a longing to belong or to find a home.
There are plenty of short, sharp shocks in Trick, none of which are entirely predictable and it also boasts the first death by crane I can remember in a horror movie, which is hugely impressive. The makeup and SFX, by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who does basically everything, are spot on and there’s no gore for gore’s sake, which is a crutch a lot of filmmakers tend to lean on when trying to elevate a relatively low-concept slasher movie.
Trick takes place in upstate New York, where the movie was also filmed, gifting it a chilly, seasonal vibe. Most of the third act takes place at a local Halloween haunt, where the iconic Tom Atkins, playing the kind of small-town curmudgeon he can do in his sleep, hosts an aspirational movie marathon each year. The maze, loaded with the dreaded chainsaw guys, is the kind of attraction you want to venture into while watching the movie, which is always a good sign, as well as being a smart setting for a masked killer to run riot.
As Trick gets increasingly convoluted and silly, Epps, who elevates everything he’s in, and Adair continue to sell the living hell out of it. Even when things go completely insane, we continue to root for their survival. Although Cheryl is, ostensibly, the Final Girl, in reality it’s this lovable duo (the sweetest odd couple pairing in law enforcement since Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson in Scream 4) who keeps things rattling along. Epps and Adair are equally excellent, their performances anchoring Trick consistently.
The film is a bit all over the place at times, but it’s also quite charming. The final reveal(s) is a bit too complicated; the story certainly could’ve retained its modernity while being slightly easier to comprehend but, then again, anything less insane probably would’ve felt like a letdown given what’s come before. To put it in context, Jamie Kennedy plays someone named Doctor Steve in this and, aside from the fact that time has not been kind to the erstwhile Randy, his presence barely even creates a ripple.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Patrick Lussier
Writer(s): Patrick Lussier, Todd Farmer
Stars: Omar Epps, Ellen Adair, Tom Atkins, Jamie Kennedy, Kristina Reyes
Release date: October 18, 2019 (Theaters, On Demand and on Digital HD)
Studio/Production Company: Trix2019
Run Time: 97 minutes