Trapped Alive Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Leszek Burzynski
Written by Leszek Burzynski and Julian Weaver
Released on June 4th, 2019
Cameron Mitchell as John Adams
Mark Witsken as Randolph Carter
Sullivan Hester as Robin Adams
Randolph Powell as Deputy Billy Williams
Laura Kalison as Monica Perry
Alex Kubik as Louis “Face” Napoleon
Elizabeth Kent as Rachel
Michael Nash as Mungo
It’s Christmas time and everyone is feeling the spirit of the season as snow continues to blanket the area. One night Robin and her friend Monica carefully travel the treacherous roads on their way to a holiday party. Their trip is ruined when they stop for a stranded motorist and are carjacked by three escaped convicts. The girls are taken hostage and held in the back seat while a man named Carter drives the stolen vehicle. The car slides off the road and into an abandoned mine shaft, trapping the group underground. A passing police deputy spots something strange and investigates stopping by the caretaker’s house before ending up in the mine himself. The cop and crooks are not alone however, as the place is the home for a hungry mutant cannibal. Everyone is at odds, but must work together if anyone is going to survive this night.
Trapped Alive (aka Trapped aka Forever Mine) is an independent horror film shot in Wisconsin’s now-defunct Windsor Lake Studios. The studio was seen as a local alternative for shooting movies outside of California or Florida and later found success hosting productions under the Fangoria Films label in the early ‘90s. This being its first production, it pulled out all the stops and constructed elaborate sets and even brought in legendary actor Cameron Mitchell (From a Whisper to a Scream) in a supporting role for marquee value. The script, co-written by director Leszek Burzynski and Julian Weaver, includes stunts, pyrotechnics, graphic violence and gratuitous nudity, but also features some respectable character development and benefits from the snowy locations as well.
There is a moment on one of the commentaries where it is suggested that this film is a bit like watching five different genres blended into one and I heartily agree. You have the teenage girls going to a party, the escaped convicts looking for trouble, a mutant cannibal monster living underground, people trapped in an isolated location and it’s all set during the snowy Christmas season. All of these elements make for a quality genre offering from the 1980s. Burzynski gets things moving right off the bat with the prison break followed by the setup of the girls and the party and in no time our characters are all together in a bad situation. The script moves at a decent pace though there are some slow moments in the middle when the monster is not on screen.
This low-budget movie is the sole credit for the majority of the participants, but everyone does their best – although performances are sometimes shaky. Production values are high and the make-up effects look pretty good too. Trapped Alive works more often than not and tries really hard to please its audience, but there is a fair amount of ridiculous stuff included. Cameron Mitchell is little more than an extended cameo and all of his scenes were likely shot in one day, but he is a welcome presence and always fun to watch. There is a hysterical exposition dump at the end where a villain monologues years of backstory while our heroes stand around waiting for the wrap-up. The picture was shot in 1988 but not released until 1993 for various reasons and may have missed its window of appreciation during the hiatus. This movie went under my radar and I am pleased to see it getting a wide release now. If you love horror films set in the snow or are a fan of stories about coal-mining monsters eating people, then this is the one for you!
Video and Audio:
Previously available in a washed out VHS release, Trapped Alive has undergone a 2K scan of the original negative and the results are pleasing. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, colors are vibrant and black levels are bottomless. Flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail.
The original mono recording is presented as an LPCM 2.0 track and sounds terrific. Dialogue levels are clean and clear and well-balanced with music and effects cues.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Until now, Trapped Alive hasn’t received a lot of love on the home video front. Arrow Video goes a long way in correcting this oversight starting with three all-new audio commentaries. Also present are some interviews and a vintage behind-the-scenes documentary program.
The first commentary arrives courtesy of director Leszek Burynski, who has a lot to say about this production and the circumstances under which it was shot. He talks about how the project came together, working with his cast and crew and the film’s troubled release.
Special effects artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley provide the second commentary with Carlson providing some biographical information and assorted stories from the set. The chat becomes more focused whenever his work appears on screen as he reveals how certain gags were achieved.
The podcasters over at The Hysteria Continues take control of the third commentary and admit this film eluded them previous to this assignment. They discuss the film’s place within the genre and some of its influences and provide information about some of the cast and crew.
There’s EVIL Underground (31 minutes) is a brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with Burzynski, cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, production manager Alexandra Reed and actors Alex Kubik and Sullivan Hester. Topics include what it was like shooting in a Wisconsin winter, early casting anecdotes, working with Cameron Mitchell, set design, the look of the monster and diversity among the crew. This is a fast-moving piece that is interesting and covers a lot of ground.
Special effects artist Hank Carlson is the focus on an on-camera interview (19 minutes) in which he discusses growing up in Wisconsin, getting hired on this film - his first production - and where it led him in his career.
Upper Michigan Tonight (23 minutes) is a television documentary on Windsor Lake Studios shot in 1988. The piece features behind-the-scenes footage shot on the set of Trapped Alive and features interviews with Burzynski, producer Christopher Webster and production designer Brian Savegar.
In Leszek Burzynski: The Early Years (10 minutes), the director discusses his early forays into the genre making short films. He wrote and produced Blood Harvest (1987) starring Tiny Tim before moving on to helm Trapped Alive. His stories are informative and entertaining and it is nice to hear him discuss this other project.
A still gallery (200 images) filled with publicity shots, promotional stills and behind-the-scenes photographs is exhausting, but there are quite a few doubles included in the catalog.
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