I recently watched the “Exorcist on a snowmobile” horror flick The Chill Factor, which was the second movie in a planned three-picture deal with the then newly built Windsor Lake Studios, owned by Hellraiser producer Christopher Webster. Webster bought an old Girl Scout camp in northern Wisconsin and he planned to turn the buildings into studios and shoot low budget films on-site. The first effort was today’s film Trapped Alive, which was originally titled Forever Mine, which to me is the most amazing film title ever. Because most of the cast and crew were inexperienced in film development, Trapped Alive went over budget forcing The Chill Factor to go under budget. If you want to see how that affected The Chill Factor, be sure to read my review on Cultsploitation. So, the most important question is: did going over budget result in Trapped Alive being a better film? Hahaha…hahahahahhahahahaha…
Forever MineTrappedTrapped Alive takes place primarily in the confined space of a mineshaft. Partying girls named Robin and Monica are headed out to a Christmas party when a group of convicts kidnap them and their car. The trio of prisoners consists of Face, the leader with a birthmark on his face and a serious case of bipolar disorder; Mongo, an overweight man who, umm, yeah he is pretty much just there to die; and finally we have Randy, the handsome young prisoner who Robin instantly falls in love with and starts planning their entire future together. The group manage to crash their car into a mineshaft, where they become trapped. Unbeknownst to them, a cannibal is living in the mine who is very, very hungry. Don’t worry, though, he only shows up randomly. Instead, the movie focuses on the hard-hitting questions of whether a man is guilty by association and judged by the people he hangs around. Also, adultery.
Trapped Alive is a bizarre film. It spends a lot of time on our small group of characters as they bicker back and forth. When the cannibal does show up to munch on some flesh, the people react to the crazy mayhem in front of their eyes as if this is about as normal and bland as a Sunday drive with the parents. Face – who is meant to play the bad guy – tends to be angry one minute, then nice, and then scared. He is all over the place. Another tick on the bizarre scale is a scene straight out of a porno. A cop needs to use a lady’s phone, with said lady waking up dressed for success in full makeup and jewelry. You can tell she is depressed and out of love with her husband because she immediately starts hitting on the cop and before you know it the two are doing it on the floor in front of a fireplace. Does this add anything to the movie? No, but I do like a random sex scene for no apparent reason in all of my movies, so I’m fine with it. If a side plot porno-esque scene doesn’t strike your fancy, maybe you’ll find satisfaction in the final scene, where the true villain of the piece rambles incoherently for a few minutes, dishing out all the exposition you figured out an hour ago. Finally, if my review included spoilers, I would be able to tell you about the most unnecessary death in cinema history, but alas, you’ll have to watch the movie to see that insanity.
What better way to see the film than with Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release? As with most releases from Arrow Video, we are provided with a solid new 2K scan from the original 35mm camera negative. The film has a bit of damage at times and grain can be heavy during some dark scenes, but overall I didn’t see anything that looked terrible. The video transfer uses a MPEG-4 AVC codec with an average bitrate of 34876 kbps. Arrow has this to say about the transfer:
Trapped Alive has been exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in 1.78:1 with stereo audio.
The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution, graded and restored at OCN Labs. The grade was supervised and approved by director of photography Nancy Schreiber, ASC.
The soundtrack was sourced from a set of original 3/4″ tape masters and a DVD master.
All restoration work was completed at OCN Labs and was completed in collaboration with director Leszek Burzynski and DOP Nancy Schreiber.
All original materials used in this restoration were accessed from Films Around the World.
When scanning the BD Info for Trapped Alive, the bitrate for the audio seems to indicate that it’s presented in Stereo, and even Arrow mentions it being stereo in the blurb above. Nothing stood out to me when comparing it to a mono soundtrack, but as I usually point out, I’m not the best expert when it comes to audio. Nevertheless, the dialogue was clear and the sounds nice and loud. To me, it’s a solid LPCM 2.0 track.
We have a pretty stacked Blu-ray in terms of extra features. We are looking at three audio commentaries (listed below), a nice 31-minute making-of titled There’s Evil Underground, with Sullivan Hester still looking mighty fine. There is also an interesting bit of information about the casting in regards to Michael Berryman, who was originally meant to play Face. Next, we have an interview with special effects make-up artist Hank Carlson. The film has some fun practical effects, so it’s a feature worth watching. One feature that’s really interesting is an archival 1988 special titled Upper Michigan Tonight, which talks about the newly setup Windsor Lake Studios. It features interviews with Christopher Webster and director Leszek Burzynski and various other people. It’s kind of sad in a way as they discuss the future of the studio and their hopes and dreams of where they will be in years to come. Next, if you want to know more about director Leszek Burzynski’s career, you can check out the nearly 10-minute feature titled Leszek Burzynski: The Early Years, which talks about Blood Harvest and other films. Finally, we have an image gallery with over 200 images.
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 (30:52)
Interview with Hank Carlson (18:37)
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 (22:32)
Leszek Burzynski: The Early Years – the Trapped Alive director discusses his early forays into genre movie-making (9:41)
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Zack Carlson
Trapped Alive might be a bit too boring for some people as the main premise of the story isn’t about a cannibal, but about a bunch of people bickering for over an hour. Nevertheless, the film has a bunch of weird scenes that you need to check out. Because of that and the fact Arrow Video’s Blu-ray is jammed full of features and solid audio and video, I recommend checking it out.