When writer Todd Farmer and director Patrick Lussier team up, it’s usually a sign of good things to come. The pair have previously collaborated on films like Drive Angry and My Bloody Valentine 3D, both of which spilled buckets of blood while being endlessly entertaining. Separately, Lussier gave us Dracula 2000, and Farmer is the mastermind behind fan favorite Jason X. All of which to say that a Halloween-set slasher from this dynamic duo should be a safe bet to deliver a seasonal treat. Instead, it’s a dud that lives up to its name: it’s one terrible trick played upon its audience.
Opening on Halloween night in 2015, small town New York, Patrick “Trick” Weaver slaughters many of his classmates at a costume party. He’s stabbed, arrested, and shot five times before taking a hard fall outside of his hospital bed when he escapes police custody. His body isn’t found, but everyone assumes he’s dead. That is until the following Halloween, and every Halloween after, when the slaughter resumes once more. Detective Mike Denver (Omar Epps) is determined to track Trick down and stop him from killing again, for good this time.
Straight away, it’s clear that Lussier and Farmer are operating at a sub-standard level. The lighting is blown out, both at night and during the day, giving the entire film a washed-out, drab aesthetic. The sound quality is spotty at best in certain parts, especially in the initial hospital scenes. It’s a small budget feature, and the film looks it the most during kills or high action sequences; that’s when the camera does frenzied acrobatics to obscure and hide any limitations. It can be frustrating.
As the no-nonsense detective with a serious grudge, Epps fully commits. Even when his character isn’t given much depth, he’s still trying. Which is a perfect summation of why this slasher fails; Trick seems to have an underlying, deep-seated desire for camp but none of the cast are in on the joke. They all play things stone-cold serious, without a trace of humor. It doesn’t help that there’s not much creativity in the deaths, save for one so oddly handled that it plays for unintentional laughs. At least there’s plenty of blood.
Lussier and Farmer raise some interesting questions with their script, though many of them have already been answered in Halloween. Like, whether evil exists, and what that might look like in the suburbs. They also raise a valid point of why Trick only kills on Halloween. What does he do the rest of the year? A thinly veiled jab at Michael Myers that, like most of the movie, goes nowhere. The plot is much more content to play out like a basic cat and mouse police procedural than a fun Halloween slasher. With random eyebrow-raising moments thrown in, especially in the third act.
Tom Atkins has a minor role and seems to be the only actor aware of what kind of movie this is. He’s a breath of life in a soulless movie, but he’s a very minor supporting character. If you’re signing up solely for Atkins, you’ll end up disappointed. Jamie Kennedy also appears as Dr. Stevens, who spends most of his limited screen time quietly making weird expressions in the background. So much so that it quickly loses all subtlety.
At every level, from technical to story, Trick is a joyless affair. The killer is utterly dull, the death sequences aren’t very inspired, and everything looks and feels flat. This isn’t a so-bad-it’s-good scenario, it’s just bad. It’s mind-boggling, considering the films Lussier and Farmer have delivered. Those searching for Halloween viewing treats won’t find it here.