Sunday, 18 October 2009

Death Trap (aka EATEN ALIVE, HORROR HOTEL etc)

Another 'Must see at some point' film has now been crossed off the list, and to be blunt, it was a rather anticlimactic experience. I guess that's probably the same feeling that most people that saw this on its original release way back when.

This is a notorious Video Nasty, but it is probably known most widely as 'That dud of a film Tobe Hooper did after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Its reputation may also stretch to the notorious crocodile scene at the climax (well, it's more 'where the film stops' than a climax), or the role of a young Robert Englund.

Rather than being an unsung gem, I found Death Trap (or whatever it's called in your part of the world) to be a bit of a chore to watch. I don't mean it freaked me out (man, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff I've seen).

It's cheap, it's certainly nasty, and sadly, it is rather dull. Granted, following TCM must have been a nightmare, but this is something of a mess of a film. It's also rather badly shot, quite clearly on a soundstage.

One aspect that really got my back up was the fact that the film takes so long to get going, and then when it finally picks up some pace it doesn't seem to go anywhere in particular. It has that sleazy Grindhouse atmosphere to it that has regained notoriety in recent years thanks to the Tarantino/Rodriguez double bill project, but that's about all it does have going for it.

Neville Brand's performance as the psychotic, scythe wielding hotel manager Judd is the one high point of the film, and he plays the part with delirious glee. His yelling and maniacal laughter does get a bit annoying after a while, and by the film's end you realize that a good chunk of the film's running time was spent in a mid-shot of Judd as he laughs and gibbers while shaking his scythe at the camera.

There are flashes of Tobe Hooper's more stylish and tense directorial nuances, but these are sadly fleeting. It's passable viewing as part of a horror marathon, but only if used to break up a run of classics. It has its moments of entertainment and its moments of shock and gore, but as one of the titles to be stuck under the 'Video Nasty' banner, it isn't all that nasty.

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