Trapped Alive

By Josh Hadley | March 15, 2017

Trapped Alive is a film that most people have never heard of… and some people would like it to stay that way. Shot under the title Forever Mine and written and directed by Leszek Burzynski (who has since made nothing of note), Trapped Alive died a quick death upon its initial release in 1993. Starring a cast of TV supporting role players along with first (and last) time thespians with Cameron Mitchell as the only name actor. Mitchell shows up at one point, has three scenes that add nothing whatsoever to the film and then pops in for the last ten seconds prior to the credits (still adding nothing).

“To see this film, you must seek it out in its analog crypt…”

Set and shot in Eagle River, Wisconsin, Tapped Alive tells the tale of two girlfriends on their way to a Christmas party when they are carjacked by three escaped convicts from the local penitentiary. Sleazeball antics ensue and the five leads fall down a long abandoned mine shaft which just happens to have a mutant cannibal living in it because… well, because it’s a horror movie. A sheriff shows up. Cameron Mitchell calls some people on the phone. A thoroughly gratuitous sex scene happens and after 70 minutes, the damn mutant shows up and starts eating the characters we’ve grown to hate at this point. The monster is killed, more of the cast die, but you’ve already stopped caring.

The characters are all as stock as they come: the party girl, the good girl, the dumb cop and three escaped convicts such as the psychopath leader, the dullard enforcer and the nerdy tech man. Every character has a single note which is wholly what defines them.

“All that said, I do recommend the film for one major reason and that is the gore FX and the monster makeup by Hank Carlson.”

If you stalked the video store shelf for anything horror-related will know the joy and loss of having picked up this tape back in the day. With a score that only the finest Casio can provide and shot in an unadorned fashion, Trapped Alive is not something you would have sought out but if it were on TV at 3AM, you might suffer through it. Perhaps you picked up this tape due to its highly misleading cover. Neither of the two actresses on the cover, nor the characters they “represent” are actually in the movie.

All that said, I do recommend the film for one major reason and that is the gore FX and the monster makeup by Hank Carlson. Carlson was still in high school when he was tasked with giving this film a modicum of credibility and he pulls it off.

“I learned all about how Hollywood works while making this movie… I was a small town kid who got to help design a monster for a real movie. A movie never turns out how you imagine it, but I am proud to have this film on my resume, it was an amazing crash course. Everyone has movies like this, Dick Smith has one these movies, Rick Baker has one of these movies… Trapped Alive is mine. Because of this movie it made me a better makeup artist and everyone needs that experience.” Hank Carlson would go on to do FX for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Army of Darkness and Super Mario Brothers among others. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Made by Windsor Lake Studios (who also generated all three of the Fangoria-produced films in the early 1990s). Windsor Lake would also be responsible for the similar movie Demon Possessed, the underrated Meet The Applegates and the Dan Hagarty vehicle The Inheritor.

Trapped Alive is more of a curious artifact than a film, shot as if it were lensed on film and edited on video. Trapped Alive is kind of an endurance test to make it through, yet does not take a toll on the viewer oddly enough and that is the film’s strength. It’s tedious, but in a fun way. Filmed in 1988 and sitting unreleased until 1993 when AIP Home Video burned it off in the midst of the VHS horror boom, Trapped Alive lies under the radar for most genre fans. It is not without its influence, though I would say with almost a certainty that Neil Marshall saw this movie as there are more than a few scenes in The Descent that are highly reminiscent of Trapped Alive, even the mutants in The Descent have a vague similarity to those in Trapped Alive.

A rights quagmire currently impedes Trapped Alive from coming to DVD and this also stands true for the bulk of the Windsor Lake catalog with only Mindwarp and Children of the Night having found a home on DVD. To see this film, you must seek it out in its analog crypt. The tape itself is relatively easy to find online but shockingly scarce in the wild.

There’s no need to adjust your tracking, just click play and enjoy this trailer for Trapped Alive.