'Trapped Alive: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Cameron Mitchell, Alex Kubik, Sullivan Hester, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1988) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: One wintry night, pals Robin and Monica are making their way to a Christmas party when they are carjacked by a gang of crooks recently escaped from the local penitentiary.
With the two young women taken as hostages, things take an even darker turn when their vehicle plummets down an abandoned mine shaft, trapping them underground with the dangerous crooks - and a mutant cannibal.
Blu-ray Verdict: Genre regular Cameron Mitchell ('The Toolbox Murders', 'From a Whisper to a Scream') stars in this thrilling tale of escaped hoodlums and underground-dwelling cannibals from director Leszek Burzynski and 'Hellraiser' producer Christopher Webster.
Filmed in 1988 under the title of 'Forever Mine' but not released until 1993, 'Trapped Alive' was the first film to come out of Wisconsin's now-defunct Windsor Lake Studios; which would go on to produce a number of films under the Fangoria Films label in the early-90s (including 1992's Bruce Campbell-starring, and highly-underrated 'Mindwarp').
So, three convicts escape from a maximum security prison on Christmas Eve and decide to hijack a vehicle on a snowbound backwoods road, subsequently holding the two women hostage.
In trying to avoid a roadblock they go off road and crash through a rotting cover over an old mine shaft. The survivors now find themselves trapped in a maze of old tunnels, but soon realize they might not be alone.
Meanwhile a local deputy sheriff is on their trail, of course … just very slowly and not so wisely, given the circumstances re: there's three (3) escaped convicts, my friend!
Anyway, for my money this is an odd film to try and lob into a certain genre although ever since it came out it's been slotted neatly into that of Horror, of course.
But, again, in my humble opinion, it tries to balance a whole range of genres which I kinda dig yet still felt somewhat disappointed come the end.
There's something there, but I don't think it fully taps into it and the lack of a budget adds to it. Basically, it's schlock material, but it doesn't entirely act like it. Well, not exuberantly so with the exception of one character sub-plot.
The story starts off straightforward enough with quite a long-winded setup where the acting and script both combine to brings us a rather ham-fisted bid to execute the plot.
For the first hour you got deal with a lot of it with plenty of predictable character arcs and restless friction between unwanted company in the caves to move the story forward.
But when the underground cannibal hermit (a wrinkly old man with scraggy white hair and a beard) makes himself known to the group it sort of picks up the pace somewhat.
Like, the dark is no longer playing tricks and what develops is downright nonsensical and unhinged, especially the events surrounding the mysterious woman that lives nearby and the cartoonish nature of her inclusion!
There are a couple eerie and unpleasant jolts with decent looking make-up effects, but to my mind just not enough when push came to shove.
One thing though that had me bug-eyed, and probably the most effective horror moments throughout, are the scenes where a mechanical claw (much like those found inside plush toy arcade machines) would come down and clamp down on his meals!
Quite a pro too, as it only took him one go each time!
Oh, and as for star power, veteran actor Cameron Mitchell (who was on Broadway in the original cast of Death Of A Salesman) sleeps through his tiny part. Indeed, that's basically all he does for a good part of his role here! This is a Full Screen Presentation (4:3) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with director Leszek Burzynski
Brand new audio commentary with special effects artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley
Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
There's EVIL Underground... - brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with director Leszek Burzynski, cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, production manager Alexandra Reed and actors Alex Kubik and Sullivan Hester
Upper Michigan Tonight - 1988 television documentary on Windsor Lake Studios, featuring footage from behind the scenes of Trapped Alive and contemporary interviews with director Leszek Burzynski, producer Christopher Webster and production designer Brian Savegar
Leszek Burzynski: The Early Years - the 'Trapped Alive' director discusses his early forays into genre movie-making
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Zach Carlson