31 Days to Scare ~ Trick (2019)

The Facts:

Synopsis: A no-nonsense detective tries to track down a serial killer named Trick, who is terrorizing a small town.

Stars: Omar Epps, Ellen Adair, Kristina Reyes, Jamie Kennedy, Tom Atkins, Vanessa Aspillaga

Director: Patrick Lussier

Rated: R

Running Length: 97 minutes

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review: When you’ve been a fan of horror for a long time, you get familiar with the names of those involved with every aspect of the filmmaking process.  Some people track particular writers from film to film or keep an eye on where a genre director decides to travel for their next project.  Can they improve upon their previous work you favored or are they stuck in a rut of same-ness that hints at art-for-paycheck inspiration instead of true artisanship?  Even if the flick winds up not being a masterpiece due to budget constraints, I’m willing to give points for trying if I can tell an effort was put into giving ardent fans what they’ve been screaming for.

When I first got wind Trick was coming out, the plot sounded like a fun throwback to those types of ’80s slasher films they don’t make anymore.  Featured in the cast were recognizable B-listers that would ring a bell for horror aficionados like Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch), Jamie Kennedy (Scream), and Omar Epps (Scream 2) and then behind the scenes were editor turned director Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) co-writing the script with Todd Farmer (Drive Angry).  Now, we’re not talking extreme pedigree here but these are individuals that have been around town on the terror train before and should know the ins and outs of what makes for a well-plotted, nicely-paced, entertaining scary movie right?  Well, the trick’s on you, folks.  This is one rotten pumpkin.

At a typically raucous but otherwise innocuous teenage Halloween party several years back, a game of spin the knife turns deadly when a boy in a mask suddenly goes on a stabbing spree.  No one knows why the boy, Patrick aka ‘Trick’, lost his marbles but after taking out several unimportant extras he’s subdued by Cheryl (Kristina Reyes) and brought to the local hospital awaiting questioning by Detective Denver (Omar Epps).  Under the less than watchful eye of Dr. Steven (Jamie Kennedy, looking like no doctor I’d want to have examine me), Trick disappears into a river but not before incurring injuries that he couldn’t possibly survive…

Over the next three years, the legend of Trick lives on, and similar murders occur each Halloween in nearby towns.  Is it Trick back from the dead or a copycat seeking their 15 minutes of notoriety?  Quickly taking on urban legend status in this age of online dark web enthusiasts and cultists, Trick comes to symbolize a deep evil springing forth in the most unlikely of places, a theme the troublesome Joker already explored in a far more sophisticated way a short time ago.  Tracking Trick like a Javert with far less conviction or pathos, Denver tries to get his colleagues to see the connection between the yearly slayings. It isn’t until the killer inexplicably targets someone close to him that anyone gives notice…and even then it’s only to further distance themselves from the now-disgraced detective.  Bouncing forward to present day and it just so happens it’s the year Trick has come to settle the score against the survivors of his original attack through a lengthy evening that offers zero scares, a twist or two, but no real surprises.

Honestly, I had high hopes for this one and purposely avoided watching the trailer before giving this one a look.  I’m glad I did too because a whole heck of a lot is handed over to the audience, rendering some surprises null and void by the time anything of substance starts to happen in the movie.  This is such a rote, elementary effort that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of some sleepwalking experiment.  All the tired tropes are present, save for the red herring that points us in a different direction.  The biggest twist of the film is telegraphed from the beginning and even when it’s revealed it feels like an afterthought bit of padding disguised as a clever switcheroo.  The acting is absolutely dreadful, even lower than the usual standards for this fare.  The only bright spot in the cast was Melody Hurd as a young trick-or-treater who manages to make some of the Farmer/Lussier dialogue land without wincing.  When a pre-teen is acting circles around veterans, you’re in trouble.

Sometimes what can save horror films with lame plots are the effects or inventive kills but there is just no imagination on display here.  The killer starts off swinging a knife and sticks to that M.O. for some time, until they start to employ fancy set-ups that don’t even get the job done in one fell swoop!  Not that any victim puts up much of a fight, most just stand there and wait to be stabbed and then promptly die…or look dead only to show up in a later scene just mildly uncomfortable wrapped up in a bandage.  That lack of finality is at least consistent with the last half of the movie, though, because it simply never ends.  Forget seeing any alternate endings on the subsequent home release of the film because Lussier has included all of them here.  I honestly couldn’t believe how long and drawn out it all was, it’s like that guest at your party that says “good-bye” and then stays for another half hour chatting about leaving.

There’s going to be a lot of unsuspecting people lured in by Trick’s fine-looking poster and by the previous credits of the filmmakers touted on the promotional material.  Lussier cut his teeth editing films for Wes Craven but has yet to show he learned anything of value from that master of horror.  Not every one of Craven’s films was a winner but I don’t think you could ever say they were uneventful in their execution.  Considering everyone involved, this is a monumental disappointment.  I’ve a feeling Trick would be a movie Craven could have spiced up a bit but in the hands of Lussier/Farmer it is a D.O.A. attempt to cash in on the lack of good slasher movies.