Originally filmed under the somewhat misleading title of Forever Mine in 1988 but not actually released until 1993, Trapped Alive (a far more appropriate title for a horror film) is another little known cult film to be recently given the makeover treatment from Arrow Video. Whether or not it deserves that treatment is a different matter, as Trapped Alive suffers from the usual tropes you’d expect from what was originally an 80’s low-budget horror: flimsy plot, dodgy acting, and some cheesy moments along with a monster so laughably bad that it’s hard to believe that Hellraiser producer Christopher Lambert, a man who helped bring iconic horror villains the Cenobites to life, produced this a year after the release of the 1987 horror classic that introduced us to the infamous Pinhead and co.
Staring Cameron Mitchell – who got his start in westerns and action movies but will be more recognisable to horror fans for the likes of The Toolbox Murders, Blood and Black Lace, Night Train to Terror, Without Warning, and From a Whisper to a Scream – Trapped Alive concerns two female friends who are on their way to a Christmas party but are accosted by a gang of convicts that have not long escaped from the nearby prison. So far, so standard for the criminals who, despite a few plucky attempts of escape from the girls, are on their way to freedom. But things take a darker turn when the car loses control and ends up plummeting down an abandoned mine shaft, trapping them all underground with seemingly no easy means of escape. So not only are our two heroines trapped underground with a bunch of dangerous criminals, something else is there with them.: a mutant cannibal. Hiding. Waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
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Now, for fans of 80’s horror, the above might look like a recipe for horror heaven, and the ingredients are there for brutal splatter fun and scares but unfortunately none of these things really arrive. At least, not as well done as you’d hope. The criminals are more inept than intimidating with their apparent leader hamming it up as a typical villain, who, although he can be quite sinister at times, is far from memorable. The friends, Robin (Sullivan Hester) and Monica (Laura Kallison), are not just pretty party girls that are easy prey for the convicts – they show some fighting spirit. Particularly Robin, whose clothes appear to magically fall off at one point towards the end which she doesn’t seem to mind/notice at all, despite being down a damp and surely cold mine shaft! But we can count that as a win for 80’s horror fans. Among other cheesy moments is sheriff John Adams’ (Cameron Mitchell) love-making scene with randy local Rachel (Elizabeth Kent), who is a lot more involved with the goings-on down the mine shaft than we might at first suspect. Obviously the sheriff is more worried about getting into Rachel’s knickers than escaped criminals, but he does his hero bit quite well later on so can be forgiven!
But one of the most disappointing elements of Trapped Alive is the mutant cannibal. Despite being very large with big sharp teeth, it appears more comical to an extent. This could be partly due to what we’ve seen since (or even before – looking back to the previously mentioned Cenobites for example, whose designs are pretty terrifying, even today) or in bigger budgeted productions around the time, but there doesn’t seem to be enough about the monster to truly scare you. Another reason could be its entrance: coming down and then back up on some slow moving chains doesn’t exactly instil the fear that an attack is due at any moment. So this villain (played by Paul Dean) is a disappointment overall despite having a couple of decent, fairly exciting moments towards the end.
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And that kind of sums up Trapped Alive: a few fairly decent moments here and there, a few exciting ones, a couple of strong enough performances, but nothing to lift this to anywhere near its cult contemporaries, which if released in 1988 would have been the likes of Pumpkinhead, Slugs, Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Night of the Demons. Maybe 1993 was actually a better time for Trapped Alive‘s release, with its main cult horror competitors then being Jennifer Aniston’s debut, Leprechaun, John Carpenters’ Body Bags, Return of the Living Dead 3 and epic Gullimero Del Toro vampire movie, Cronos. Either way, Trapped Alive pales in comparison to a lot of the above movies and at best is worth a watch for curious 80’s horror obsessives.
In terms of extras, Arrow have done their usual fine job for Trapped Alive. Featuring brand new audio commentaries, a brand new behind the scenes documentary, footage from a 1988 television documentary on Windsor Lake Studios who first released Trapped Alive, an interview with director Leszek Burzynski, along with a reversible sleeve with new artwork and a collectors booklet, it’s another worthwhile package for horror film collectors.
Trapped Alive is available on Blu-ray now, courtesy of Arrow Video.