Saturday 28 March 2020

Trick (USA 2019: Dir Patrick Lussier)

Back in 2015, it's Halloween in Benton, NY, a small town close to the river. A group of co-eds are playing 'truth or dare'; one of their number is Patrick Weaver  - whose name is often shortened to  'Trick' (Thom Niemann) - a super intelligent all round nice guy who helps kids with their homework. But when goaded to participate in the game, Trick knifes five of the partygoers to death in a frenzied attack. One of the group manages to stab him, after which he's also shot, falling out of an upper floor window onto the pavement below. He's almost certainly dead, but, Michael Myers style, disappears from the spot where he fell when no-one is looking; it's assumed that he jumped in the river to escape.

Over the next few Halloweens, every year a different town in the area is subject to the same vicious killing sprees. Detective Mike Denver (Omar Epps) suspects that it's Trick every time, returning to seek revenge. He doesn't rule out supernatural forces at work, particularly when attempts to identify him via social media and school photos fail: "He could be anybody," the detective concludes.

Over the years Trick's massacres make him notorious; he even inspires fan websites, an aspect of the story which is touched upon but not developed. The authorities remain unconvinced in Denver's theories that the killer is one person, rather than copycat killings; "The only thing keeping this guy alive is you" he's told. Trick's murder setups become ever more complex: a cop is beheaded by wires attached to heavy weights; and a rookie policeman is crushed to death when a gravestone, suspended from a crane, crashes through a car window. Denver is eventually forced into early retirement through a mistake which costs a fed her life, but his crime busting partner, Sheriff Lisa Jayne (Ellen Adair), brings him back to work: it's 2019 and Halloween is fast approaching.

On the surface, Trick is a slick, fast paced but all over the place thriller with enough WTF moments to last a lifetime. The over the top acting, Saw style impossible death set ups, abundant gore, as well as multiple plot twists that seemed to exist merely to unseat the viewer as to their understanding of what was going on, left me feeling a little underwhelmed.

But wait a minute - Patrick Lussier was the director of 2011's batshit crazy but incredibly enjoyable Drive Angry, wasn't he? This made me re-evaluate what I was watching, and the conclusion? I'm not sure that we're meant to take any of this hugely seriously. And when you approach Trick from that perspective it suddenly becomes massively enjoyable. Granted, I'm not sure that someone told Mr Epps about this, as he seems vaguely uncomfortable throughout with the dialogue he has to utter; House this isn't. But, and I could be wrong here, the references to John Carpenter's Halloween make this feel like a knowing update of the Myers myth, and some scenes - a showing of Night of the Living Dead for example, used in every low budget horror movie because it's public domain and there are no rights costs, screens with an alternative soundtrack - suggest in-jokery; hell, genre stalwart Tom Atkins is in it!

I admit: I'm confused. Actually I can do better: Trick left me feeling whelmed. And you can't say fairer than that.

Trick will be available on Digital download from 30th March.

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