Steel Trap Review

Steel Trap is one of the more peculiar films I've seen in some time. It comes on, not least in the distributor's blurb, like a Saw rip-off, turns into a kind of Ten Little Indians clone and then concludes with a denoument which is so demented it almost makes the film worth seeing. Almost.

The film begins simply. During a rather low-budget New Years Eve party at the top of a condemned office block, a collection of highly resistable guests receive a text message inviting them to a 'special' celebration on the floor below. The five invitees bring two extra partygoers with them and find the space set out as if for a childrens' party. Party food has been provided along with some distinctly off-putting nametags - Pig, Heartless, Loverboy, Two-Faced Bitch and Loser. Clearly, the intentions of the party organiser are not entirely charitable but this doesn't stop the guests from wandering about at will, shagging each other and stuffing the most popular export of Colombia up their nostrils. Some of them think it's all a hidden camera stunt for TV but others aren't so sure and their fears turn out to be well founded when it becomes clear that they are trapped at this uninviting gathering.

This is the set-up for a slasher movie which is high on unintentional entertainment value and low on shocks, suspense or originality. The dialogue throughout is an inadvertent treat - at one point, a character observes, accurately, that "this is getting dumber and dumber". In my favourite moment, the following Socratic exchange about a mobile phone takes place:

"What does that mean? Signal blocked?"
"It means something's blocking the signal!"

Idiotic dialogue aside, the script doesn't have much going for it since the characters have one major facet each and it's already written on their name tag. They argue endlessly amongst themselves, make irrational decisions and walk insouciantly into traps so obvious they might as well be painted in day-glo orange and carry an illuminated sign saying "Die Here". The clues given by the killer, in rhymes, aren't much more inspiring and it doesn't take a genius to guess that the characters' deaths will be linked to the epithets on their tags. The logic of the story isn't too bad for the most part, to be fair, and we do come to a relatively sensible conclusion about ten minutes from the end. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your taste for high camp, the story then continues into a twist ending which would be ludicrous even if it were not overacted to a degree which might have put Donald Wolfit to shame.

To be fair, this farrago is entertaining enough if you don't take it seriously and director Luis Camara stages the mild gory bits well and has a good eye for locations which reminded me of Catacombs. another ho-hum low budget horror movie with a ridiculous last minute twist. The acting is sometimes a bit too enthusiastic but generally competent enough and the interplay between characters is occasionally quite engaging. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the provenance of the film. It's meant to be set in America, it was made by a German company in Cologne, the cast is largely British and the director is a Mexican. As a horror-thriller, Steel Trap is a mess but as an example of International co-operation, it's a model of good relations.

The Disc

Steel Trap was released in the USA under the "Dimension Extreme" banner with a commentary track, a featurette, a photo gallery and a trailer. In the UK, Lions Gate have removed everything except the featurette. While I can't say I was gagging to hear Luis Camara's thoughts on his masterwork, it would have been nice to get the opportunity. Incidentally, the cover states "Surviving Each Floor Is The Name Of The Game!" which is all very well except anyone watching the film will discover that it takes place on two or three floors at the most, one of which is perfectly benign.

The picture quality is middling. It's very grainy indeed and often infuriatingly dark. Both of these are probably characteristic of the source material but they don't make for attractive viewing. Colours are muted but effective enough and blacks are suitably solid. The 1.85:1 transfer is anamorphically enhanced. As for the sound, it's a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix which does the job very nicely indeed. Dialogue, which dominates throughout, is eminently clear and the occasional uses of the surround channels for atmospheric effects is pleasing.

As stated above, the only extra is a making-of featurette which reveals the international nature of the production and offers some comments from cast and crew which are, at best, mildly diverting but far from essential viewing.

English subtitles are on offer but only for the film.

Steel Trap is a very traditional slasher movie dressed up in the publicity to look like a film in the Saw mould. It's not excessively nasty or sadistic however and may appeal to viewers for whom Saw and its ilk are a bit extreme. Otherwise, it's nothing that fans of the genre haven't seen before.

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