An abandoned mine is a hell of a location. Fitted for a multitude of purposes it can be the site of heroic daring do in the quest of ancient treasure ala Indian Jones, a kid friendly creepy adventure into the unknown with Scooby Doo or even a politically charged feel good drama like Brassed Off (okay that last one is tenuous!)
Best of all the malevolent mine makes for a great place to set a horror. Seen most recently in episodes of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and played to perfection in the original and remake of My Bloody Valentine the claustrophobic caves, pitch black maze like environment and constant threat of falling rocks add an extra thrill and chill to any movie utilising this setting.
Written and directed by Leszek Burzynski and originally entitled Forever Mine, for a several reasons, the 1988 movie Trapped Alive came out in 1993 from Wisconsin’s Windsor Lake Studios which would go on to make a number of movies under the Fangoria Films label in the early-90s, including 1992’s Bruce Campbell-starring Mindwarp.
Set at Christmas we open on a yule tide party in full swing as our plucky heroine and Daddy’s girl Robin (Sullivan Hester) bids her father farewell and heads off into the dark snowy night with her less angelic friend Monica (Laura Kallison) to a more boisterous bash across town.
Unbeknownst to the ladies a prison break has taken place and the evil escapees Mongo and Face (Michael Nash and Alex Kubik) are on the run with Randy (Mark Witsken) their unwilling aid who has been forced along to serves as their getaway driver.
When the girls spot the convicts they mistakenly stop and are taken captive however the car slides off course and careens into the caves of the long closed down Forever Mine leaving the five unfortunate souls trapped alive.
Desperate to flee not only from the mine but also the lecherous and murderous men who have many unsavoury plans for the two girls Robin and Monica are yet to discover there is much more to fear in the cavernous confines. Lurking in the shadows is a monster with a taste of human flesh but will it catch them before they catch on?
Trapped Alive is disappointingly slow in getting going with far too much running time spent on character development and incongruous titillation to really inspire anything other than boredom in the audience. Worst of all it wastes the two things it has going for it, caves and a cannibal, failing to use either to their full fear filled and putrid potential.
Early on police man Billy Williams (Randy Powell from Logan’s Run) is introduced however instead of heading down to the mine to act as a saviour he ends up in a house nearby having sex with the weird woman who lives there. This pointless soft core porn fails to excite on any level and its only justification is to bare some boobs and paint the law man as less heroic than his position implies.
Although it’s a noble feat to pursue a plot line that proves you can’t judge a book by its cover a cop by his badge or a convict by his crimes, a trashy horror film such as Trapped Alive is not the place to do it and as more time is devoted to Billy bullying Randy, a likable lad who got caught up with the wrong crowd, and Robin falling for the bad boy racer less and less is spent on scaring the living crap out of the viewer.
It is criminal that the cannibal doesn’t show up in full till an hour in of the 89 minute running time and his ensuing attack and the gore and thrills it provides is far from satisfactory as compensation for all the boring build up.
Looking more like a skanky shopping centre Santa than a deranged flesh eating maniac sadly the films climax involving a welcome dose of crazy is neither scary enough nor silly enough to save the film.
In the end the mine may go up with a fiery bang but Trapped Alive leaves its audience cold and uninspired. Far from a stone cold classic or a cult curiosity there are much better horror movies from this era on offer so take my advice and try not to get Trapped Alive.