cast: James Elliott, Heather Marie Marsden, Jeff Fahey, Michael Madsen, and Andrew Sensenig
director: Dan Garcia
82 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 2
review by Mark West
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – a bickering, married couple are on their way somewhere, with the plan of taking time out to relax and rediscover the spark that is sorely missing between them. Along the way, they have an incident which incapacitates their mode of transport but then a friendly local turns up, suggesting they go and stay at a nearly motel. Said couple head to motel, start to talk, almost patch things up and then realise that something nasty is going on around them. It sounds like the premise of 2007’s Vacancy, with Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, doesn’t it? Well, it’s also the premise of Terror Trap.
Bickering married couple Don and Nancy (David James Elliott and Heather Marie Marsden) are run off the road by an anonymous driver. The local sheriff, Cleveland (Jeff Fahey), stops by and offers to drive them to a nearby motel – Royal Vista – run by Ruggins (Andrew Sensenig). It’s clear he’s not a fan of big city folk, but gives them a room “on the house.” Our heroes, tired and worn out by their fighting, don’t think to question this but instead accept the room and try to settle down for the night.
That’s the set-up and you can probably guess what happens next. Don used to be in the forces (“I’ve slept in worse places than this!” he declares, when he finds blood on the wall – which he touches – and pubic hair on a bar of soap – which he touches), so you know that training is going to come in handy. There’s something in the past between the couple, perhaps an infidelity on Don’s part, that is the bone of contention between them but, in adversity, they get over it. Cleveland and Ruggins have an audience of voyeurs who pay $2K each to come and sit in the sleazy hotel, watching live feed through dirty windows and mugging for the camera so much you have to assume their mothers are sitting watching the film with you – seriously, they overact like people in a porn movie, mouths agape, wiping lips, pointing, widening their eyes, it’s stupid and we go back to them again and again.
Somewhere in all of this is Carter (top billed Michael Madsen, who’s on-screen for about 10 minutes and probably did everything in a day and is just playing Mr Blonde with floppy hair), who appears to be running the organisation, though it’s never made clear. We also have a van load of eastern European sex slaves, random people getting killed and a funeral that has, as one of its mourners, a baddie who is clearly seen getting killed earlier on.
It’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to make this because the only original imagery, thugs in Pierot clown masks terrorising the goodies, only happens infrequently. This offers nothing new to the genre and seems a step back in parts – Ruggins uses email to bring the punters in, so why couldn’t they watch the action on the Internet? The lead characters are charmless, with Heather being so obnoxious that you actually want her to get stuck outside with the clown thugs, whilst the rest are barely drawn in. In terms of acting, Elliot and Marsden are workmanlike, though never really convincing and whilst Fahey appears to be having fun with his sleazy lawman, Madsen looks as if he’s only doing it for the paycheque and not willingly at that.
There’s very little suspense, almost no gore, no scenes of torture, no real scenes of menace and there are plot holes aplenty. A fire truck turns up at one point, which panics Ruggins, though the fireman seems to be in on it. The goodies car is brought back, but left in the same place that the fire truck occupied (and was never moved from). Madsen tidies up loose ends, killing everyone involved, which makes you wonder how he managed to get the operation to work in the first place and, whilst we see the goodies escaping, fake-Mr-Blonde doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, the last five minutes seem to belong to another film altogether, as Carter menaces a bad actor in a Range Rover and then blows it up. If you want to watch this kind of film, rent Vacancy instead.