When bickering couple Don and Nancy’s car is forced off the road when they pass through a small, rural Louisiana town, they are taken to stay at a nearby motel by the somewhat inhospitable sheriff. They soon discover that the motel is used by a gang of twisted individuals to produce snuff movies. And Don and Nancy are to be the unwitting stars of their latest film!
Beginning promisingly with a menacing scene in which a young women is stopped by a gruff sheriff in the middle of nowhere, hauled out of her car, has her keys confiscated and told she must either spend the night in a jail cell or a nearby hotel because she’s in ‘no fit state to drive’, Terror Trap sadly goes down hill from here on in. The taut uneasiness created in this scene, depicting a helpless woman powerless to do anything when a corrupt authority figure abuses his power, could have lent the film real suspense had writer/director Garcia incorporated more instances like it throughout. What exactly do you do when a cop, someone who is supposed to serve and protect, behaves so unreasonably and no one is around to witness it or help? This concept wields so much potential. Sadly though, events soon just degenerate into repetitive clichés and a subplot involving Michael Madson that doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the film.
Once our intrepid protagonists have bickered their way to the motel and discover that a group of people have gathered there to make a snuff movie, the film finally gets going and features a number of mildly suspenseful chase sequences. However the repetitive formula wears thin very quickly: couple try to run to one of the cars in the car park, they are intercepted by a gang of masked thugs wielding big sharp things, they run back inside one of the motel rooms and fret about how they’re gonna get out of there: lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseam.
Jeff Fahey is suitably menacing as the bent sheriff and seems to be having fun playing such a grimy bastard. Elsewhere performances are fairly standard; Michael Madson plays his usual gruff tough guy, but is wasted in a role that doesn’t really feature in proceedings much. Don is something of a wet blanket and David James Elliot struggles to gain much sympathy for his character. Heather Marie Marsden injects a little humour into bitchy Nancy, but when she comes under threat from Fahey’s sheriff, we find it difficult to care.
A number of shots of the deserted highway at night from inside the couple’s car are effective enough to convey their vulnerability and isolation, but as soon as they check in to the motel, the film struggles to maintain its air of dread. Any tension mustered is swiftly dispelled by scenes featuring the group of people gathered together at the motel to watch the tortures and killings. They consist of greasy trucker types, sweaty businessmen and a lone woman who is obviously into ‘fucked up shit’ as she seductively licks her lips when viewing scenes of carnage. They pass each other tissues and masturbate (!) while watching from behind a two-way mirror as Don and Nancy run around the place. A last ditch effort to blur boundaries and introduce a moral grey area comes when one of the group seems to be experiencing doubts as to the pleasure he garners from participating in the production of these snuff movies. Too little too late.
An interesting idea, a couple of retro-cool actors, a creepy location, but Terror Trap still manages to lack the spark it needs to become an engaging, suspense filled thriller.
Running time: 83:10
Special Features: Trailer
Cat Number: ABD4921
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1