Lussier and Todd Farmer has been noticeably absent of late, which is a shame considering their last two collaborations where light-footed exercises in trashy fun. Gore drenched remake My Bloody Valentine brought the 3D grue like no film before or since and drawling supernatural throwback Drive Angry was the Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider movie we all deserved in the first place, but despite a few close calls (apparently they were a stone’s throw away from continuing the Halloween franchise after Rob Zombie), the team have been disappointingly quiet, unable to capitalise on their earlier, fun excursions.
That changed in 2019 with Halloween themed slasher, Trick, that saw Lussier and Farmer return to spread a little viscera around just like the good old days – but armed with a new angle of a well worn premise, can these former horror hellraisers still live up to their previous promise?
It’s all Hallow’s Eve 2015, and a gaggle of teens are all having a house party with the requisite booze and shenanigans that you’d expect and we join them just in time to see them play spin the knife (don’t look at me like that, it’s not like they don’t have bottles everywhere…), with the the blade falling on intense mask wearer Patrick “Trick” Weaver. Luck of the spin means he has to kiss a guy, but instead of doing that he instead rudely massacres about 80% (party foul, dude!) of the room before being understandibly stopped by a poker to the midsection. However, he manages to escape in hospital and is finally put down by Detective Mike Denver and Sheriff Lisa Jayne who both give him the contents of their guns the hard way which forces Trick out of a window. However, no body is ever found, but the sleepy town of Benton, New York gradually starts to get back to normal as it’s wounds, both figuratively and literal, start to heal – that is until a year later, when more murders occur at a Halloween dance that are committed by a nimble slasher that’s wearing very similar face paint to the marauding teen that took at least 5 lives the years earlier. Once again, Trick escapes right from under Denver’s nose and rumours are beginning to spread that he may not be human, something that’s really starting to get under the lawman’s skin – and then yet another year later, two FBI agents are slain right in front of him by the returning killer, effectively ending the detective’s career – talk about your deja-vu…
As Halloween 2019 rolls around, the story of Trick has become an urban legend of mythic proportions and even Denver believes that his face painted nemesis is the devil, but what hideous treats has Trick got for the survivors of his very first rampage and can anyone hope to stop a killer that seems impervious to bullets and returns every year without fail with the same, grim predictability as a Michael Buble Christmas album?
Sporting a noticably lower budget than their previous two pairings, Lussier and Farmer has turned in a scrappy flick that casts a loosely logical eye over the curious habit slasher characters have of returning to their bad habits on specific dates, but comes up with something predictably more convoluted than “Look,they just do, ok?”. The only problem is that to get there, we’re required to muscle our way through a scrappy script that seems to have written from the twist backward and while it’s loaded with stabby incident, it wilfully sacrifices satisfying character arcs and story momentum in order to get it’s concept off the ground.
The first casualty at the Altar of the Plot Twist is any kind of smooth storytelling gets thrown out the window due to it’s messy, but necessary, time jumps. Just when the film seems to hit a comfortable rhythm we are forced to skip forward another 12 months only to find that everyone’s attitudes and dress sense are still the suspiciously the same and it’s tough to feel invested as the film also doesn’t give us any sense of dread that the next Halloween is looming, we’re just dropped in on the night and subsequently the film has all the breathing space of a cheap single apartment in Japan.
Of course, if the pace suffers because of the restrictions the filmmakers have place on themselves, you best believe that the character arcs feels it too, with some characters dropping off our radar for 2 two years before we randomly catch back up with them to find out that – yep – nothing’s changed. Now I don’t know about you but if I lived in a town plagued by a returning serial killer for two or three consecutive years and my personal life hadn’t improved a single jot in that amount of time, I’d probably consider moving away. It also makes our core group of characters kinda dull and lifeless with actors such as Omar Epps and fellow Scream 2 victim Jaimie Kennedy (it’s okay, he doesn’t try to be funny…) left with not a whole amount to work with.
Aside from showing off an impressive amount of halloween merchandise (Trick wears a multitude of different face coverings), the movie’s titular knife swinger is also somewhat buried under the mechanics of making the twist work and despite some nifty parkour skills is fairly nondescript with his trademark face paint ultimately coming off at iconic as a blank wall.
So is this twist that every thing in this movie is relentlessly slaved to actually worth the wait? Well, not really, no – especially as it’s only a larger scale attempt at what’s already been done in at least 3 Scream movies and it’s even weirder that it’s dropped a good 15 minutes before the end as so the film can take advantage of how smart it thinks it is.
On the plus side, it’s fast, it has a spitefully large body count and it features an appearance by none other than Tom fuckin’ Atkins, but it also feels like the script is a good two or three drafts away from completion and got the green light before it was properly polished.
A diverting Halloween watch, but Trick is hardly a treat…