TRICK

Producer: Ellen S, Wander
Director: Patrick Lussier
Writer: Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier
Stars: Omar Epps, Jamie Kennedy, Tom Atkins, Ellien Adair, Kristina Reyes, Robert G. McKay, Vanessa Aspillaga, Alex Breaux, Todd Farmer and Thom Niemann
Studio: RLJE Films

D

The locale might be identified as Benton, New York rather than Haddonfield, Illinois, but there’s a good deal of “Halloween” in “Trick,” not least when Mike Denver (Omar Epps), the cop trying to track down maniacal serial killer Patrick Weaver, nicknamed Trick (Thom Niemann), refers to him as “pure evil.” Frankly, it sounded better coming from Donald Pleasence.

Patrick was a high school student known for his intelligence and inconspicuousness when he went berserk at a Halloween party after being confronted, during a spin-the-bottle challenge in which the bottle is replaced by a shiny knife, with the demand he kiss a male classmate. He responds by grabbing the knife and killing several partygoers before being wounded himself and carted off to the hospital. There, after being tended to by a doctor (Jamie Kennedy), he kills his police guard before being shot repeatedly by Detective Denver and Sheriff Jayne (Ellen Adair), falling out a third story window. But—gasp!—he disappears, having apparently crawled into the river.

But there is a wrinkle: it turns out that Patrick Weaver was a sort of ghost—someone with no home and no past, whose school credentials were never properly vetted. There are no photos of him, and even his fellow students have trouble remembering what he looked like. And on Halloween he’d covered his face with black war paint, obscuring it. There seems no way of identifying him accurately. Still, since he’s presumed dead, the case is closed.

The following year, however, a similar massacre occurs on Halloween at a town down river. Denver is certain it’s Patrick; others assume a copycat killer. The pattern continues the following October. Eventually Denver enlists Jayne in an effort to track Weaver down and prevent future deaths.

They prove remarkably inept at this. Not only civilians but their own law enforcement colleagues wind up dead, some by extraordinarily brutal means. (A deputy is literally killed with the tombstone of an earlier victim, and Denver’s boss dispatched in an elaborate trap. The gore is quite profuse.) Nevertheless Weaver is eventually unmasked, as it were, and the truth about the series of slayings revealed.

That revelation is one of the major problems with “Trick.” By trying the confect a rational explanation for what’s been happening after toying with supernatural ones for ninety minutes, the movie opts for a twist that’s not only risible, but comparable to the end of “Joker,” with a topper that’s awfully reminiscent of the close of the TV versions of “Salem’s Lot.”

To be sure, the movie does feature a committed performance from Epps, along with a turn by veteran Tom Atkins that will make genre devotees smile. Overall, though, the acting is just ordinary, and while Lussier pours on the gore, his direction is fairly pedestrian, even in the action scenes. The physical production isn’t far from threadbare.

The season invites movies modeled after Carpenter’s “Halloween,” of course, but this one lives up to its title: it’s no treat. Better to go back to the 1978 original, or to David Gordon Green’s reboot of last year.