Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trick: Happy Halloween

People are sick. Not just serial killers, like Patrick “Trick,” Weaver. Almost by definition, their wiring is seriously messed up. It is the supposedly normal people who adopt serial killers as cult heroes who are much scarier from a sociological perspective. That definitely happens in Weaver’s case, in part because of his apparent supernatural resilience. Every Halloween, he returns to commit a spectacular act of mass murder. An FBI agent and a Hudson Valley sheriff will do their best to stop him in Patrick Lussier’s no-frills-but-insidiously-grabby Trick, which opens this Friday in New York.

It started when Trick, the quiet kid suddenly started hacking and slashing classmates at a Halloween party. At least the dumb jock was useful enough to impale him in the guts, but Trick finds a way to slip out of his hospital shackles and continue his violent havoc. Special Agent Mike Denver will pump several rounds into him before he falls out a twenty-story window. Yet, he still manages drag himself to the icy river, where he presumably disappears to his death.

Except, evidently not. Every subsequent Halloween, Trick returns, leaving his signatures at the bloody crime scenes. Denver is convinced it is the same killer and eventually Sheriff Lisa Jayne comes around to his point of view. Unfortunately, Denver’s obsession will cost him his Bureau career and Jayne’s skepticism probably costs her a few deputies. Soon, it becomes bitterly personal for both lawmen, as well as their shadowy nemesis.

Trick is violent and unfussily grubby, but it is also lean, mean, and lethally tense.  You might think you can guess the big twist and you might sort of be right, but Lussier and co-screenwriter Todd Farmer call viewers’ bets and raise them substantially. In the process, they open the door for a sequel, but in a way that doesn’t feel like a cheat. In fact, we’d rather like to see that film.

As Denver and Jayne, Omar Epps and Ellen Adair have solid professional and platonic personal chemistry together. Viewers can believe the trust they have developed having been thrown together by extreme circumstances. The various young prospective victims are mostly cardboard cutouts and Trick necessarily remains a cypher-like bogeyman until late in the third act, for obvious reasons. However, the film regularly gets energized by the great Tom Atkins, who adds to his legend playing the acerbic Talbott, the grizzled owner of the local diner and annual haunted house attraction. He clearly seems to enjoy barking his lines as much as fans will dig seeing him in a reasonably substantial role.

Whoever is responsible for the Trick masks also deserves a fair degree of credit, because they are massively creepy, but very different from the Scream “Ghostface.” This is admittedly a slightly sleazy, highly exploitative B-movie, but it still works. Recommended for old school slasher movie fans, Trick opens this Friday (10/18) in New York, at the Village East.