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Steel Trap (2007)

Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/15/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/28/2008

In the English language, we have many bizarre and creative sayings and phrases. For example, if someone has a good memory (or if they are detail oriented) we say that they "Have a mind like a steel trap". This is extremely ironic, for after viewing the film Steel Trap, all that I can think about is how much I want to forget this movie.

Steel Trap opens at a New Year's Eve party which is being held on the top floor of the Genius Media building. For reasons which are never explained, the rest of the skyscraper is empty. Did Genius move? Not long after the stroke of midnight, several party-goers receive text messages inviting them to a private party on the floor below. So, Kathy (Georgia Mackenzie), Wade (Mark Wilson), Nicole (Julia Ballard), Pamela (Joanna Bobin), and Adam (Adam Rayner), along with tag-alongs Robert (Pascal Langdale) and Melanie (Annabelle Wallis), soon find themselves in area which appears to be decorated for a child's party. But, the atmosphere has a sadistic edge, as each of the place-cards have names such as "Pig" and "Two-faced". They discover a cryptic, puzzle-like message, and assume that they are involved in a scavenger hunt. However, the air of fun soon dissipates when they discover the next clue stuck to a pig's head. When one of the group is found dead, the partygoers attempt to escape, but find that the elevators and stairwells have been booby-trapped. Thus, the survivors must now try to find a way out and elude the killer who is loosed on the floor.

If one were to judge Steel Trap solely by the DVD box art and description on the back, one would assume that the movie is a rip-off of the Saw franchise. (I'm not sure who the woman on the cover, who is surrounded by buzz-saw blades, is supposed to be. There's nothing like that in the film.) However, the movie is more of a slasher film, and it's reminiscent of 80s films like Prom Night and April Fool's Day. As with those films, we have a group of people (strangers?) who are brought together to a central location for a nefarious purpose.

And like those "classic" films, one must go along with some stupid material. Here, we must buy the idea that all of these people would go to a locked-off floor in an abandoned building simply because they got a text message. It's really hard to get behind people who are that dumb. Once they get to the "party", they then eat the food which has been arranged for them. (The cupcakes read "Eat Me". Who could resist?) In addition, it takes them a while to realize that something bad is happening.

Stupid characters aside, the first half of Steel Trap isn't bad. In fact, while it's in no way original, the fact that the film is a throwback to those 80s slasher films is somewhat refreshing. (Especially since I came of age watching those movies on HBO.) The premise is ridiculously simple (people get trapped in building and are stalked), and this allows us to focus on the mystery and the character's attempts to escape. At the outset, we know nothing about the characters, and they are strangers to one another (except for by reputation), so we get to know them as well. As it becomes obvious that this is a slasher/mystery film, the viewer attempts to guess who the killer is and how the characters are related.

Unfortunately, Steel Trap goes no further than that. What begins as semi-promising, becomes a movie where the characters simply walk up and down hallways looking for a way out. It's clear that budgetary constraints limited where the actors could go, but there is very little variety here, and things become very redundant very quickly. If nothing else, one of the things about which to get excited in 80's slashers was the killer's mask, but here, the killer wears a simple black mask which sort of looks like the mask worn by that magician who gives away everyone's secrets. And then we have the ending -- when the killer and the motive are revealed, you can hear a collective groan from anyone who was ever or who will ever see the movie. The excuse is wafer-thin (no pun intended) and the connections between the victims is tenuous at best.

While Steel Trap never looked as if it were going to be a must-see, I did like the direction which the film was going at the outset. But, the filmmakers quickly ran out of ideas and the movie becomes one chase scene after another. Still, the movie isn't the worst "people trapped in an office building get chased by a killer" movie that I've seen this year. That distinction still belongs to Botched.

Steel Trap gets ensnared on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sound, as it's sharp and clear for the most part. However, there is a mild sheen of grain on the image, and it's somewhat dark. In short, it looks like a low-budget movie. Still, the action is always visible and the colors look good. Certain on-screen patterns created some video noise, but I noted no artifacting or compression issues. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, but they aren't highly detailed and it sounded as if the right and left were often duplicating the same sound. The same goes for the surround effects. They are there, but they aren't very distinctive. The track doesn't contain many subwoofer effects, but a few effective ones appear during the "shock" scenes.

The Steel Trap DVD contains four extra features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-writer Luis Camara. Camara speaks at length throughout the film describing the difficulties of shooting on a low budget. However, according to his description, every shot in the movie was a complicated shot, and like the film, his talk becomes repetitive. "The Making of Steel Trap" (41 minutes) is a highly detailed featurette where Camara gives us a great deal of information about the film. The piece is made up mostly of on-set footage and there are occasional comments frmo cast and crew members. The piece focuses on the characters, the sets, the music, the special effects, and how the film was shot. The STILL GALLERY contains many behind-the-scenes pix. The TRAILER for Steel Trap is here, letterboxed at 2.35:1, but not anamorphic.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long