Terror Trap (2011)

Terror Trap

Starring David James Elliot, Jeff Fahey, Heather Marie Marsden, Andrew Sensenig, Michael Madsen

Written and directed by Dan Garcia

Does this premise sound familiar to you?

A couple experiencing marriage problems find themselves broken down on a desolate stretch of road and are forced to spend the night at a fleabag motel; turns out the proprietors of the motel are snuff filmmakers planning to make them the stars of their next video. The couple struggle to survive the night, healing their broken marriage in the process.

If you said that sounds exactly like the plot to Vacancy, you would be correct. Except there’s one major difference – the movie is called Terror Trap, and there are just enough tweaks to how it all plays out to avoid a nasty phone call from the producers of Vacancy.

Watching Terror Trap really is like watching an Asylum mockbuster of Vacancy that’s four years too late. Let’s be honest; The Asylum would have been even more shameless and titled their version No Vacancy. Writer-director Dan Garcia should have followed that lead as No Vacancy is a much better title than Terror Trap, and his film is definitely no Vacancy.

David James Elliot of “J.A.G.” fame is husband Don, an ex-Marine with a personality that tends to remain surprisingly mellow even when in life or death situations. Elliot often has this embarrassed smirk on his face, frequently looking like he’s trying to stifle a bemused chuckle, and I was never quite sure if that was because he was on the verge of breaking character in disbelief that he somehow found himself starring in such a low-rent rip-off of more well known movie or if this was meant to be his character’s defense mechanism response to his shrewish wife’s constant profane outbursts.

Wife Nancy (Heather Marie Marsden) is such a nasty bitch she may actually leapfrog bitchdom right into the c-word. She’s hateful to everyone, picks fights over nothing, nags and complains about everything regardless of how trivial it is. A minor tiff between the two quickly devolves into her shouting “fuck you!” at Don at least a half dozen times in a row while he just sits there with that semi-smirk on his face. A local cop initially appears to be helping them by giving them a lift to the motel to stay the night after their car gets demolition derbied by a mystery driver in the dead of night, and while he may come across a tad lecherous in his comments towards Nancy during the car ride, his demeanor still did not warrant her angrily screaming an f-bomb directly to his face.

That cop who moonlights as a snuff filmmaker is Jeff Fahey, rocking an awesome hobo beard. Fahey plays this perverted, hot-tempered homicidal lawman as if he’s auditioning to replace R. Lee Ermey in the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Given their mutual temperaments, a more fitting ending would have seen Nancy feeding her husband to the wolves, marrying Fahey, and the two living unhappily ever after operating a snuff movie ring out of this fleabag motel.

Instead the movie goes full-on Vacancy with Don and Nancy repairing their frazzled marriage through the shared terror of being trapped at a hidden camera motel being videotaped as knife-wielding men in Mardi Gras masks stalk them and Fahey calls them up on the room phone to taunt them. Like all that stuff you saw in Vacancy only with little by way of dramatic tension and played out in fast forward.

It’s a mad sprint to the finish line once the mostly bloodless terrorizing begins, and there’s no time to waste on subplots or character development or building suspense because by this time there’s only a half-hour remaining and the final five minutes of the barely 80-minute movie are devoted to Michael Madsen as the head of the snuff movie operation cleaning up loose ends that not only don’t involve Don and Nancy, some of it doesn’t even involve characters we’ve ever seen before.

Michael Madsen is barely in the movie and shares hardly any screen time with the rest of the cast prior to the finale. Those extraneous final scenes made me wonder if scheduling conflicts kept him away until the last day of filming and since the producers paid for Michael Madsen to appear they just shot a couple extra scenes unrelated to the primary storyline to justify his name on the marquee.

The best to be said for Terror Trap is that I didn’t mind it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I realize. Elliot’s constant embarrassment, the wife’s needlessly angry outbursts, and Fahey’s madman hamminess kept me occupied more so than the snuff filmmaking at this death trap motel. The film killed time without boring me to tears, which is more than can be said for the dreadfully dull Vacancy 2 that went straight-to-DVD a few years back. The similarities are so glaring Sony Pictures Home Entertainment should snatch up the US DVD rights and release it here as Vacancy 3. Or The Asylum could pick it up and repackage it as No Vacancy. Either or would suffice.

2 out of 5

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