Terror Trap, 2010.
Directed by Dan Garcia.
Starring David James Elliot, Heather Marie Marsden, Jeff Fahey, Michael Madsen and Andrew Sensenig.
Don (David James Elliot) and Nancy (Heather Marie Marsden), a couple with an unhappy relationship, are run off the road on a rural back road. The surly Sheriff Cleveland (Jeff Fahey) drives the couple to a motel where crime/motel overlord Carter (Michael Madsen) will subject them to a deadly game of cat and mouse for the pleasure of a paying audience.
[Warning – here be spoilers]
Terror Trap begins with a biblical quotation:
‘For just a man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: But the wicked shall fall into mischief.’ – Proverbs 24:16
Whether this is to imbue the film with a sense of weightiness or to give the viewer somewhere to turn after witnessing Terror Trap is up for debate.
Terror Trap begins as a paradigm of horror movies with an attractive young woman speeding along a rural highway, talking on her phone and taking swigs from a liquor bottle with an almost suicidal disregard for the law. Set up as the perfect “deserving victim”, cue Sheriff Cleveland (Jeff Fahey) pulling her over and going from genial old boy to shouty psycho in a matter of seconds. Cleveland intimidates the young woman into letting him take her to the motel of doom. This young woman does reappear a few times through the film and her funeral is used to bookmark the beginning and the end of the film but any significance she might have is lost in the severely muddled plot.
Next up on the roster of victims are Don (David James Elliot) and Nancy (Heather Marie Marsden), who bicker and fight. Well, Don doesn’t really do much fighting, he just kind of sits there and takes the abuse most of the time. The couple seem on the verge of divorce as she screams ‘Fuck You!’ at him five times in a row and then hits him whilst he is driving. Surely only an event of life-changing magnitude could ever bring these two alienated lovers back together.
After Don and Nancy are run off the road by one of Carter’s lackey’s, the two are whisked away by Fahey’s Sheriff to the motel and must deal with the inevitable weirdo hotel clerk in order to get their shitty room that has blood smeared on the walls. At this point, many people might reach the decision to leave immediately and maybe tough the night out in a ditch before dusting themselves off and finding help elsewhere. But no, Don explains away the blood by joking ‘Wow, these truckers must like it rough!’. Indeed.
Oh, and Nancy randomly reminds Don that he was a Marine. Y’know, Just sayin’.
Meanwhile, texts are sent out by Carter to various scumballs who gather at the motel in a dark room to watch the carnage on offer via video feeds planted all around the hotel. The scenes with the watchers are ridiculously over-egged, with the voyeurs shown as sweaty, twitchy caricature sleazebags. These scenes are more humorous than disturbing as the watchers goggle wild eyed at the screen as Don and Nancy fanny around doing nothing much at all.
As the film progresses, this audience of degenerates are seen watching not only the trials of Don and Nancy but also the torture and murder of some Ukrainian prostitutes that Madsen’s Carter has purchased. The director seems to try and want to create a gritty, washed out aesthetic á la Hostel and films scenes of the Ukrainian prostitutes as a writing mass of flesh, and has them twice sprayed with arterial blood after a couple of throat slashings, seemingly thinking that this is disturbing and visceral but instead it’s just kind of shallow and pointless.
There also doesn’t seem to be any underlying moral tone or message regarding the actions of the watchers or those committing the crimes. There is no guiding reason behind the violence and blood other than to attempt to appear ‘edgy’ and modern by embellishing the weak story with voyeuristic elements.
Whilst the Hostel part of the film is unfolding, Don and Nancy are embroiled in their own The Devil’s Rejects / Vacancy plot and run from place to place being pursued by assailants wearing overalls and what appear to be Venetian carnival masks. The masks lead to the murderers looking like a much tamer version of Slipknot and remove any sense of threat that they might pose to the main protagonists. It is around this point that Don seems to remember that he was a Marine for eight years and goes full-scale Rambo on everyone, perhaps revelling in the fact that he can finally express his rage at his crappy marriage and hideous wife.
The film ends with Don, having killed mostly everyone in the motel and leaving Cleveland beaten and broken on the floor, gently guiding Nancy away from the hotel as they start to walk the road to freedom and, perhaps, a brighter future. After the dust has settled, Carter walks to Cleveland and talks with him for a minute before shooting him twice, seemingly just because he can. Carter then walks off into the darkness, free to re-start his unique business somewhere else.
After this ending, there are about four more endings/epilogues that only served to further muddy the waters of the already broken plot and I couldn’t really understand what the hell was going on anymore.
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