A fairly obscure Canadian production that's set in rural Tennessee, Trapped (also known as Baker County U.S.A.) is one of the better Deliverance inspired backwoods horror films to follow in the wake of that more famous picture thanks in no small part to the participation of Henry Silva. Better known for his lengthy stint in European crime films, here Silva plays a man named Henry Chatwill who, when the film begins, is having his way with a foxy young woman down by the river. His coitus is soon interrupted, however, as the pair is interrupted by a couple of guys who have wandered out of the nearby town and stumbled upon their boot knocking. Henry's not too happy about this, so he gets his gun and chases the poor buggers through the woods.
Meanwhile, at the state university, a student named Roger (Nicholas Campbell) is debating with his teacher whether or not it is ever acceptable to take a human life. After this thriller argument, he and his girlfriend hook up with another couple and head into the woods for a hiking trip. Roger and his pals have arrived in the area at exactly the wrong time, however, as Henry has just found out that his wife has been cheating on him and after smacking the crap out of her, gets some of his goons together to throw tar and feathers on the man she was doing it with behind his back - and then he kills him. Once the deed is done, Henry realizes that Roger and the rest of the campers just saw the whole thing and so he sets about chasing them through the woods before they can make it back to civilization and report him to the cops.
Trapped isn't a long lost classic but it is a pretty decent take on the hickspoiltation formula shot with enough style and able to conjure up enough legitimate suspense to work. The location photography feels particularly authentic as do the extras, giving the film's setting an appropriately impoverished look and feel. Rising above the simple 'Henry chases people through the woods' premise the picture does toy around with some interesting ideas regarding the intrusion into this rather sheltered society by the 'city slickers' and of course, ties back to Roger's debate early on in the film about the morality of taking a life even in self defense. Once Roger finds that it's his life that's in danger, he's forced to question the validity of his earlier moralizing with interesting if fairly predictable results.
A refreshing aspect of the film is that the protagonists actually act like reasonably intelligent human beings. Once Henry and his hillbilly buddies give chase and our more educated heroes are fighting for their lives, their natural preservationist instinct kicks in and they behave like they've actually got functioning brains in their heads. That's not to say there aren't questionable decisions made but there aren't any glaring 'why would you do that?' moments here to suck the reality out of the picture.
Of course, front and center in all of this mayhem is Silva, who wisely chooses to not go ridiculously over the top here. While there are spots where his drawl slips a bit, he gives a pretty convincing performance as the heavy of the film and is actually pretty menacing in this picture - scary, almost. While it might sound like faint praise pointing out a scary antagonist in what is essentially a horror film, when you think of how many pictures from the genre can't even deliver that much you realize that it is a pretty important aspect and Trapped gets that part right. He doesn't chew the scenery here as he has in some of his better known crime pictures (Fernando Di Leo's The Boss comes instantly to mind), rather, he's got a calculated intimidation factor here that works quite well.
There are a couple of pacing problems in the first hour of the film where maybe things could have been tightened up a bit but this is definitely a low budget gem where the good outweighs the bad by quite a margin. It's tense, it's exciting, and it's surprisingly well made.
Code Red presents Trapped in a good 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are a few scenes where the skin tones look a little pinkish but aside from that the color reproduction looks pretty accurate and while the black levels probably could have been a bit darker, this is probably more to do with the source material than the transfer. Detail is fine for an older low budget feature and only mild print damage is noticeable. You can't really call it reference quality but given the age and obscurity of the picture there's really nothing to complain about here, the movie looks pretty good.
The audio chores are handled by a fine English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. There's the odd pop in the mix but if you're not listening for them you're probably not going to notice them. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and the score and sound effects are all well balanced. The film shows its age in that it has got a fairly limited range but you can't fault it for that.
Extras are slim on this release, limited to a trailer an anamorphic trailer for the feature (puzzlingly presented in Spanish, though the English language trailer for the film appears on Code Red's release of The Strangeness) and bonus trailers for The Devil's Express, Weekend Murders and Rituals. A static menu is also supplied.
If you've always wanted to see Henry Silva chase a bunch of people around the woods with an axe but never had the opportunity, here's your chance. Trapped is a pretty solid backwoods thriller highlighted by Silva's manic performance which helps to elevate it a notch or two. Code Red's DVD release is light on extras but it looks and sounds just fine. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.