The horror genre is a gateway for new directors to make a splash, introducing audiences to burgeoning talents who’ve gone on to redefine and even rise above the genre. We all have filmmakers who we keep an eye on, awaiting their next film that might push them further into the mainstream. One of those directors, for me, is filmmaker Patrick Lussier. Lussier started off as an editor and is responsible for cutting many of the later films of the legendary Wes Craven, including New Nightmare and the original Scream trilogy. Transitioning to directing in 2000, Lussier began with primarily direct-to-video film and sequels before finding his audience in 2009 with My Bloody Valentine 3D and the overlooked Drive Angry. I have a soft spot for these films. They’re fun guilty pleasures that know exactly what type of film they are and don’t take themselves too seriously. Lussier and Jason X writer, Todd Farmer, threw out immersion for in-your-face, cartoonish gore.
Sadly, after Drive Angry didn’t feed the box-office, the duo of Lussier and Farmer stayed dormant for almost a decade. There was talk of them continuing Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboots and a rumored Hellraiser reboot, but the two seemed to have gone their separate ways, entering the purgatory of television directing. Then in 2019, a trailer surfaced for the Halloween-themed slasher, Trick, with the writing duo reunited once again. They even managed to bring back type-casted genre-icon, Tom Atkins, who played a cop in both My Bloody Valentine 3D and Drive Angry (and also the HorrOrigins nominated short, Polybuis). Now this could have been exciting, a cap off to a trilogy of 80's genre throwbacks, a metaphorical ending on a high note! Well, it’s an understatement to say I was disappointed.
Trick opens on Halloween night in 2015, where mysterious teenager, Patrick “Trick” Weaver, just up and slaughters a handful of classmates at a party when a game of spin-the-bottle doesn’t go his way. There’s one way to give your slasher a backstory folks. No sooner does Trick begin his body count, is he wounded and taken to a nearby hospital. There, he’s interrogated by Detective Denver, played by Omar Epps, who will be our Ahab for the evening. Despite his injuries, Trick breaks loose, but his gateway is halted when he is shot repeatedly and falls out a window, hitting the ground with a hilariously done fall effect. Miraculously, Trick gets up and escapes into the night without a trace, similar to another Halloween-themed killer whose name is escaping me.
Everyone is baffled. How did Trick escape with his injuries? Why did he do it? And who was Trick? Nobody can give a solid description because he wore face-paint under his double-sided mask. He appears to have no known address and no digital footprint. He’s just gone, only to seemingly come back every Halloween for the next four years to kill a handful of people, and further ruin the life of the now disgraced Denver. Trick even carves himself a following online with websites dedicated to spreading his legend, though the pages look more like old MySpace blogs. It’s now the present day. Trick resurfaces again to apparently take revenge on Cheryl, played by Kristina Reyes, the “final girl” from the first night.
Cat and mouse ensues, as Denver and the police trail Trick around town, leading to the highlight of the film where the killer is loose in a haunted maze that is run by Tom Atkins’ character, the shotgun wielding Talbot. The audience is strung along which leads to a twist, revealing that there are multiple “Tricks.” It’s an entire cult operation full of smaller characters introduced in previous scenes, bent on creating a monster worth fearing, wanting us to think that Trick was this supernatural entity. If that sounds messy, that’s just the abridged version.
For a film trying to deconstruct the genre, Trick is a below average, paint by numbers slasher that is having an identity crisis. The reveal of the cult is interesting, given the rise in true crime and serial killer fandom online, and this would have been an interesting angle to explore further. With the online presence of Trick’s fans, there could have been murder live-streams, or fans placing their bets on potential victims.
One of the Tricks is shown to have access to security tapes so that theory could have held ground. As far as the story goes, Trick is a rehash of John Carpenter’s Halloween mythos with a dash of Scream added to throw the audience for a loop. From a production standpoint, this is where it gets really disappointing. The handheld, digital camera work doesn’t do the film any favors, often adding unnecessary lens flare during some otherwise darker scenes and shaking enough to cut characters out of frame. Combine that with the choppy editing throughout, and you have the visual presentation of Taken 3 crossed with Reno 911. This is from a guy with twenty years of editing experience and eight features!
With the announcement of Scream 5 going into pre-production, I was disheartened to hear that Lussier wasn’t considered to helm the project. My Bloody Valentine 3D and even his earlier works like Dracula 2000 prove he’s a competent and technical filmmaker, on top of his previous knowledge of the franchise through editing the first three entries. Trick is a sub-par Scream clone, committing the worst crime a horror film can: It’s not scary. That aside, it reminds you that you could be watching much better horror films. There’s no stand-out kills, no real suspense, and there’s no humor to balance it out. It’s an overall missed opportunity that represents a director missing an opportunity of his own.
Side-note: Jamie Kennedy appears in the film with a small role as a doctor, making him the other Scream 2 alumni along with Omar Epps.
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