Steel Trap (2007)
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Steel Trap (2007)

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Creating a good, independent horror flick is difficult enough lately. The field is so over crowded that the competition for any attention is fierce. Add to this that there seems to be a very small pool of ideas from which the film maker can dip for ideas. It almost appears that there is some sort of horror flick generator where you enter a few specifics like location, preferred murder weapon and a few other details and turn the crank. Then a script comes out and you are ready to go. It is not that all of these films are completely without merit; s few make for a reasonably good viewing. One of the latest examples of this is ‘Steel Trap’ by Luis Cámara. It is a passable popcorn flick but just can’t seem to reach beyond that. Some of the problem is with audience expectations. The tagline for the flick is ‘Surviving Each Floor Is the Name Of The Game’. It conjures up images of some sort of video game scenario where the potential victims have to navigate one floor after another; each more sinister and deadly that the one before. This is not really the case here. Now you can go to the writer with problems about the script or the director for the presentation but this is entirely on the shoulders of the marketing department of the studio. A popcorn flick can be fun and good for a laugh, even unintentional ones. When you go into a movie expecting one thing and that is not delivered than your perception of the movie is immediately colored. After all if you went to a film with ‘Friday the 13th’ in the title you have the right to expect Freddie and his fingers. Here the film fails to deliver what was promised. If it was promoted as a straight forward slasher flick it might have done better in its reception.

The story was provided by a husband and wife writing team; Luis Cámara and Gabrielle Galanter. This is the first feature length script for both although Luis does have a couple of shorts to his credit. It is obvious that both have done a lot of research in the horror genre before embarking on this screenplay. The downside is they have taken concepts from other films and pasted them together. It is a normal part of the learning curve to imitate before you begin to create something new. This lets the new artist become familiar with the form and requirements. This seems to be the case here as opposed to those out there you can do little more than just rip off others. There is a glimmer of interesting plot devices here that just couldn’t break free. There is a lot of influence from the ‘Saw’ franchise. Added to this is the usual survival theme. If the victims can manage to get out alive all will be well. Of course when a story is pulled from other, familiar works there will be predictability. A horror flick needs to shock the audience. The writers have two main ways to accomplish this goal. The first is to create a situation with a twist that the audience never saw coming. The second is to go gross and pour on the fake blood and guts. Neither method was successfully employed in this film. You can just about stop the film and tell those around you what will happen next and most times you will be correct. Since the film is thematically roughly based on the ‘Saw’ flicks there is little hope of going beyond them with the bloodshed.

In his role of director Cámara also has some way to go to learn his craft. He sets the circumstances up well but needs work in finding a more novel fashion to execute, no pun intended, the situation. There is little tension developed and the characters are such stereotypes of awful people that the audience is hard pressed to care about their plight. Only one or two of the characters have any redeeming qualities making it difficult for the audience to become emotionally invested. This is vital in a survival type of horror flick; you need to want someone to get through all the deadly traps. Once again there is an undercurrent of hope here. With a little seasoning and experience he could wind up surprising people with his future projects. There is too much talking here. When you are running for your life it is not the proper time for a bickering session or discussion. It also adds considerably to the annoyance factor of the characters. You might even find yourself hoping for their demise.

The flick begins in an abandoned office building where there are signs that a party is going on; people shouting and balloons littering the hall. It is New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing. As a rock band plays the crowd of people count down to midnight. The party’s guest list is full of a celebrity, if you use the term in the modern, very loose, vernacular. The one singing is a rock star, Wade (Mark Wilson). Also in attendance is the host of a cooking show, Kathy (Georgia Mackenzie), television producer Pamela (Joanna Bobin) and an advice columnist, Nicole (Julia Ballard). Some in attendance have not reached that level of fame, so to speak. They include Robert (Pascal Langdale), Nicole’s boyfriend Adam (Adam Rayner) and the required sluty girl, Melanie (Annabelle Wallis). Things begin to get tense with the selected guests before the mayhem begins. Adam (Adam Rayner) comes over and hits on Nicole resulting is an almost primate puffed chest display from Robert. Meanwhile Melanie is cozying up to rock boy Wade. When he calls her a slut she licks her lips, smiles and agrees. Wade goes off to chat with Kathy who seems less than interested. All of this is to set up antagonism between the people who we all know will be screaming for their lives any minute now. When he walks away Pamela swoops in to try to sell Kathy on some TV show idea.

One by one the aforementioned selected guests get text messages, in nursery rhyme format, inviting them downstairs to the 27th floor for a real party. Actually only Nicole, Adam, Kathy and Wade get the messages; Melanie and Robert just tag along hoping for a good time. When Kathy gets to the new party Wade is already there. He knew she was on her way since there was a place card at the table; ‘Kathy Loser’. The other place cards around the table are all insulting; ‘Adam Pig’, ‘Pamela Two Faced’, ‘Nicole Heartless’ and ‘Wade Loverboy’. The table and area are set as if for a children’s birthday party. The last card is for ‘Your Gracious Host’ who remains a mystery. Soon, we get glimpses of a strange man clad all in black leather. I used to hang out a lot in New York City’s Greenwich Village where a man dressed head to toe in pleathor would hardly be note worthy. Things get moving and the group has to try to get off the floor while pleathor boy sets off his traps.

This DVD is released by the new Dimension Extreme division of Genius Productions and The Weinstein Company. Admittedly this is not the best example of the horror and thriller movies they offer. I have watched a good number of titles in their catalog and most are exceptional. Even Babe Ruth struck out once in awhile so please do not hold this one against them. They did a great job, as usual, with the extras. The director’s commentary that is interesting if just to hear his process and decision making. The making of featurette goes beyond the usual showing the all the cast and crew were giving it their all. This is a popcorn flick but there is potential for much better things with the people involved.

Posted 07/08/08

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