Let’s cut to the quick: Trick is a bad movie.
There are plenty of “so bad, they’re good films” and some folks still subscribe to the idea that they need to justify their “guilty pleasure” obsessions, but the films that fall into these categories tend to be campy, over-the-top ridiculous or feature some memorable elements for audiences to latch onto.
With films like Trick, however, there is no great character or memorable killer, there is no spark or energizing cameo. It is simply an hour and forty minutes of pointless kills, incredibly misguided narrative decisions and pacing, pacing, PACING issues. Ladies and gentlemen, this film is a slog.
Trick is co-written by Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, the duo behind the 2009 My Bloody Valentine remake, a film that – despite some issues that haven’t aged well – is actually quite decent. Sadly none of the charm or even the narrative clarity of the remake is on display in this original slasher film, which opens strong, immediately dives off of a cliff, recovers somewhat near the forty minute mark, then plunges to new depths of disaster with twenty minutes left before sputtering to an underwhelming resolution.
The first thirteen minutes is the film’s strongest, in no small part because it would function as an amazing horror short. At a 2015 high school Halloween party in Benton, NY, a game of spin the knife (is that a thing?) goes horribly awry when Patrick “Trick” Weaver (Thom Neimann) brutally attacks and murders five people. Only three individuals survive: Cheryl (Kristina Reyes), Nicki (Kya Brickhouse) and Troy (Max Miller), who takes credit for impaling the assailant with a fire poker.
At the hospital, Trick manages to escape, nearly killing Cheryl in the process, before he is shot repeatedly by Sheriff Jayne (Ellen Adair) and FBI agent Mike Denver (Omar Epps). The villain falls out of the second floor window and disappears into the nearby river, where Jayne assumes he will die of hypothermia.
Until Halloween 2016, when a new spate of murders occur. And again in 2017. And again in 2018.
The idea of a burgeoning slasher killer who is seemingly invincible, who gains a cult following online (called *sigh* Tricksters) and who has a beef with the original crew of survivors has plenty of promise. Unfortunately Farmer and Lussier have no idea how to structure or pace their film (one telling example: the 2016 and 2017 murders are covered in approximately 3 minutes of screen time). Denver deduces that Trick is following the river’s natural geography, but there’s never any hint of motivation or reason for the attacks, nor why Trick waits four years before he returns to Benton to finish what he began with Cheryl in the present day.
This uneven pacing and awkward structure is only exacerbated by the odd decision to write out Cheryl, Nicki and Troy from the narrative between 2016-2018 (roughly thirty minutes of screen time). This might make sense if there were other characters to root for, but Denver and Jayne, the defacto leads, never amount to anything beyond stock police types. Their sole function is to run around with guns, occasionally bark orders and maybe live long enough to defeat the bad guy. Neither of them has a life or characteristics outside of those required by the case, which makes watching their investigation a bore.
Even more troubling is the fact that Trick repeatedly asks audiences to invest in the well-being of inconsequential supporting characters who barely appear before they are murdered. In 2018, the annual attack is on the FBI agents that Denver is working with and their deaths are deemed such a grave tragedy that Denver is kicked off the force. The problem is that we have never met these characters before, so their deaths carry zero weight. In fact their names are barely uttered before they’re killed – one of them in an incredibly elaborate Saw-like set-up that feels completely out of place with killer’s previous modus operandi.
Initially it seems as though these issues will be ironed out when the narrative returns to Benton in 2019, but they aren’t. There’s a whole new host of Deputies waiting to be introduced, nearly all of whom are killed in quick succession. The earliest is grieved by Jayne as though she were a sister or a lover, despite appearing onscreen for roughly two minutes.
It’s all an exhausting mess, and that’s well before the protracted ending. By the time Trick hits the 80 minute mark *SPOILER* and reveals a “twist” ending that could have been intriguing were it not a lazy redo of Kevin Williamson’s The Following *END SPOILERS*, the film feels utterly spent. The fact that there is an additional twenty minutes remaining before the completely unsatisfying wrap-up teases a potential sequel is akin to audience torture. This film has no good justification to be an hour and forty minutes long, much less suggesting there’s more story to be told in a future instalment!
Unfortunately the shoddy plot, paper thin characters, and poor pacing sinks what could have been a solid slasher. Lussier is, unsurprisingly, great at directing action scenes and the kills, while a bit repetitive, are hard-hitting and gory. Even the Benton sequences in the film’s second half, which focus on a haunted maze and a repertory theatre showing Night of the Living Dead, have great atmosphere, but by this time, it’s too little, too late. Without characters to root for and a narrative progression that makes sense, it’s impossible to care about Trick by the time it finally figures out where its strengths lie.
I could get quippy about the title, but let’s just leave it at this: Trick is no treat. It’s certainly not worth your time.