For the benefit of all us stupid viewers watching, this film opens with red text on a black screen, handily offering the definition of the word "trick".
Then, we're taken to Halloween night in the small New York suburb of Benton in 2015. As kids trick or treat on the streets, a party is in place in a large set-back house. Everyone is dressed in costume, rock music blasts in the background, and the booze is flowing.
Several of the revellers gather on the floor for a game of "spin the bottle". One of these is quiet student Trick (Thom Niemann). He's wearing a spooky pumpkin mask which has faces on it both front and back. When it comes to his turn, he spins the blade (these guys must be hardcore eh? No bottles used here, they use a dagger!). As the blade stops rotating it freezes, pointing directly towards the guy sitting opposite Trick. This causes much amusement for the rest of the group, who begin chanting for Trick and the other guy to kiss, their slow-clap drumming increasing in pace as their encouraging grows louder. Trick picks the weapon up and stabs the expectant guy opposite, followed by several of his fellow players. The place goes berserk with people screaming and fleeing, cape-wearing jock Troy (Max Miller) eventually managing to briefly wrestle Trick into submission - taking a stab to his own torso in the process. He eventually stops Trick by impaling him in the gut with a fire poker.
Upon the arrival of the emergency services, Trick (short for Patrick) is rushed to hospital, leaving five of his friends dead and several more seriously injured. Detective Mike (Omar Epps) turns up at the hospital and meets Sheriff Lisa (Ellen Adair) who's in charge of the case. They try to speak with Trick, aware that he has a reputation of being "a good kid". Why did he do what he did? He won't speak, just stares intensely at Mike as he tries to reason with him.
Once the room housing Trick empties, he suddenly bursts into life, overpowering Mike as he makes his bid for an escape from the hospital - lacerating the throat of the cop guarding his door in the process. As Mike and Lisa give chase, Trick causes several more casualties. Eventually he's gunned down and falls out of a second storey window. When Mike and Lisa race to survey his corpse, his body has vanished. A trail of blood suggests he fled into the nearby river. There's no way he could have survived, Lisa reasons ...
Hoping to make sense of their insane evening's work, Lisa and Mike research further into Trick's background, discovering he was quiet, studious and well-liked. Everyone who knew him insists he would never have done such a terrible thing.
Further investigations reveal Trick had only been at his present school for a year, his previous history unknown. The address he'd given to the college doesn't exist; his parents are nowhere to be found. His looks obscured somewhat by Halloween face paint on the night of his arrest and hospitalisation, his classmates give contradictory descriptions of Trick's appearance. Who was Trick? Where did he come from? What did he actually look like? Is he actually dead?
In the meantime, his two-faced pumpkin mask goes missing from the police evidence room ...
Then ... Riverton, New York, 2016, Halloween. Six teens are slain at a college party overlooking the same river. Mike is quick on the scene and rings Lisa to tell her of what he sees as being an extremely similar crime scene. She dismisses all notions that Trick could still be alive.
Well, okay then. How about fast-forwarding another year and landing in Hudson Village, 2017. Another Halloween massacre is executed in the same style. Mike is still obsessed with the idea that Trick is the killer; his plight remains largely dismissed and once again the killer is never brought to justice.
Mike's taking no chances come the following year. He visits another New York district, Shady Creek, 2018, the night before Halloween hoping to prevent the inevitable from reoccurring. To this end he states his case to cynical FBI agent Swift (Robert G McKay) in a bar there, in a bid to prevent another bloodbath. Swift points out that Trick was shot five times and fell 23 feet onto a concrete surface - he's not willing to entertain the possibility that he rose to kill and kill again. Mike admits he's considered that a copycat may be at play, but also believes Trick may be an evil spirit. Well, that's not going to get the FBI on side in a hurry ...
But they should've believed: a hooded figure in a creepy Halloween mask soon turns up at the very same bar, brutally slaying Swift and his assistant Christina. Mike, of course, gives chase but the figure ultimately escapes.
All of which brings up to speed in terms of the film's timeline: and we're back to where it all began, in Benton, 2019. It's present day and it's October 30th. A message left on Mike's car convinces him Trick is ready to strike again, and is taunting him. So, with the SAME FUCKING THING ABOUT TO HAPPEN YET AGAIN, is Lisa in a position to entertain his theory yet and be on standby for a night of carnage the following evening?
TRICK is a very polished affair. It clearly benefits from strong production values (the end titles even include a credit for Omar Epps's barber, for fuck's sake) which lead to it boasting handsome cinematography, impressive production design and some highly satisfying, gory special effects. Director Patrick Lussier's pacing is nifty, ensuring the action never flags.
And yet, the end result is oddly underwhelming.
The cast are serviceable throughout - alongside Epps, look out for cameos from Tom Atkins and Jamie Kennedy - but the characters proffered to them are never anything more than two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs dripping in cliche. And the plot, while it's propelled at an agreeable pace, is one that seasoned fans will more or less second-guess at every turn.
Everything in TRICK feels extremely staged, albeit staged well, and catered towards a modern Netflix-era audience who grew up on SCREAM, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER etc. It plays things safely and never dares to stray from by-the-numbers expectancy.
What I took from TRICK was that it's an extremely proficiently made modern horror film, but it's beleaguered by a counteractively mundane screenplay and frankly stupid twist which leaves it open to plot-holes galore.
TRICK looks amazing in 1080p HD, presented in its original 2.39:1 ratio and boasting bold colours, sharp detail and deep depth. The English 2.0 audio is pretty great too; clear and clean throughout.
You can see TRICK from late March when it becomes available to stream on various Digital Download platforms. We were sent an online screener link for review purposes.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Directed by Patrick Lussier|