Building a New Kind of Slasher in 'Trick'

We chat with writer/director Patrick Lussier and co-star Tom Atkins about finding fresh blood in an old genre.

Trick Screenshot
RLJE Films

Maniacs need friends just like everybody else. To achieve their goals, they have to find the like-minded and stick by their side. Director Patrick Lussier has a nasty taste for the grotesque when it comes to building movies. He likes to feel the thrust of his killer’s blade and wants the audience to feel the impact. Violence is extreme and should be treated as such. Sanitized terror should be reserved for children, but adult crowds deserve to have the breath stolen from them by silver scream images. That can be a hard sell in Hollywood, and many partners are required to steamroll through the inevitable bombardment of puritanical “No”s.

Meet pals Todd Farmer and Tom Atkins.

The three buds have locked arms ever since working together on My Bloody Valentine 3D, which then carried over to Drive Angry. Farmer cut his screenwriting teeth on Jason X (the best Friday the 13th?) and immediately endeared himself to Lussier. Atkins you’ve seen in any number of movies from Halloween III: Season of the Witch (the best Halloween?) to Night of the Creeps to Bob Roberts. A director would have to be insane not to want him in their movie.

Trick is their latest collaboration, and they were determined to set it apart from the usual slasher fare of today.

After they made My Bloody Valentine 3D, the team worked on several projects together that could not survive the wagging finger of LA. Eventually, Drive Angry got produced but failed to gain the public attention they were expecting. Years passed. Farmer and Lussier attempted to explore what worked with their first film and how could they replicate it on their new one.

“The thing that we loved about Valentine was that there was a simplicity to the goals of the antagonist,” says Lussier. Psychotic pickaxe-wielding Harry Warden just wanted the townsfolk to feel his pain. “We wanted to dip our toes back into that genre of stabbing knives or whatever you want to call it, and we wanted to create a detective slasher.”

The mystery would be the driving force with “a troika of investigators” in the form of Omar Epps, Kristina Reyes, and Ellen Adair on the hunt for the madman.

Yet, the title of the movie is Trick, and folks are plopping their money down for the Halloween-masked killer at the center of the film. “We didn’t want a slow stalker,” says Lussier, “but an absolutely voraciously fast killer. Somebody who was so quick and so lethal and so far ahead of you that it would have a real, terrifying edge and something unique.”

The film opens with a non-stop slaughterous assault of carnage with “Trick” hacking his way through a party in which speed is as much his weapon as the sharp instrument jutting in front of him. For the first 20 minutes, Lussier refuses to give his audience a moment to catch their breath.

During the first cast screening of the film, Atkins was a little repulsed. “When it started, I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is so violent. It’s so brutal!'” explains the actor. “I thought Patrick had gone over to the dark side, but then I just loved the way the whole movie went. I loved the sense of dread that you had throughout, and it was so ominous.”

Lussier always takes time to give his characters a hook, even the ones who are destined for fodder. “You get to know the people in the film,” Atkins adds. “You kind of root for them. It’s not just relentless gore for the sake of gore.”

For the opening scene in Trick, Lussier applied a lesson he learned from Wes Craven. “When I was editing New Nightmare,” he says, “Craven told me you have to make the audience think you’re insane. You have to make them think that they are so unsafe and that they can’t trust you.”

Only a true maniac would concoct such awful imagery and torment characters in such a way. “Let’s make something that gets out of control in such a flurry that you’re left at the end of it going, ‘What the fuck did I just see?'” Lussier explains.

Trick‘s first attack on its audience took eight days to shoot, and cinematographer Amanda Treyz operated the camera on every frame. “The cast never left set,” reveals Lussier. “Most of the people in that scene aren’t the main actors, but stunt performers who could act so that we could keep killing them on screen. They could move really fast. So, we stacked the deck for success.”

The goal was never to allow the audience to settle their eyes. The rampage had to be so disturbingly fast that you couldn’t place yourself ahead of the movie. Trick is the Tazmanian Devil of slashers.

To build that awful frenzy, you need the team. “I’m from Vancouver and Todd’s from Kentucky,” says Lussier. “Yet, we get along incredibly well because we have so many of the same sensibilities and like so many of the same things.” When a sick idea strikes you, it’s best to have another lunatic to offer a high-five.

Atkins agrees whole-heartedly. “Patrick is my brother,” he chuckles. “I just love him! When we first spoke about My Bloody Valentine in a coffee shop downtown, we talked, and I felt like I had known him all my life after a couple of minutes.”

Horror is a close-knit community, and while many bicker over the tiniest of details, the low budget slasher only needs a core group of harmonious hounds to appreciate its efforts.

Trick is not a film for the mass audience, but it will trigger strong reactions from the scattered members of the Lussier cult peppered throughout the populace. His friends were required to get it done, and now they’re necessary for its acceptance.

Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.