Made in Britain: Spirit Trap
If there’s one thing that I wish the British Film industry would stop doing then this is it: half-baked horror films starring someone from TV aimed purely at the UK market, hoping to break even on the back of the “star”. For the most part, they’re absolutely terrible, and the parochial thinking behind it is annoying and really winds me up. As a nation, we’re really, really good at Horror films, so, why not play to our strengths? Why churn out this sub-par hapless rubbish that is so locally aimed that it doesn’t even appeal to its target market.
Written by Phil O’Shea (this makes me sad, I loved Yellowthread Street when I was a kid), Spirit Trap is the most moribund, predictable and downright pedestrian ghost story I’ve witnessed in a while. The film takes pretty much every single supernatural cliché that you can think of and combines them to the point of tedium. The story is this: 5 strangers rent a student house in Hampstead (Lots of nice shots of Primrose Hill etc), on the first night one of them fixes an old clock which starts all sorts of spooky goings on. It turns out that they’re all at least partially responsible for the death of someone. There’s a stupid twist, before a laughable showdown and the obvious two escape.
This film is crap. It has to overcome several problems, almost all of which are rooted in the writing. Billie Piper (of Dr. Who and hooker fame) plays Jenny. For the purposes of the script, Jenny is psychic. Former Eurovision singer Alsou plays Tina (I won’t go into her character), Sam Troughton plays Nick, the nice guy, and Emma Catherwood plays Adele, the girlfriend of Luke Malby’s paranoid drug dealer Tom. I’ve put their defining characteristic in the summary because that’s all there is to them. Jenny is psychic, Nick is nice, Tom is unhinged etc. I’ve seen more depth in children’s television. This is disastrous for the film, because it’s meant to be a supernatural chiller. Unfortunately, with so little depth to the characters the revelations are both incredibly predictable, and deeply uninteresting.
This isn’t helped by the acting. Piper was just getting established as an actress at the time, so is somewhat wooden, Troughton, again it was early in his career, ditto. Malby is reasonably entertaining in a psychotic type of way, but unfortunately Alsou is so wooden that she makes Piper seem like the soul of animation. Shame, really. Winner in the acting stakes, by a long way is Catherwood. Her character at least has some development, and she serves as the conduit for the spooky happenings in the second half of the film.
The other problem this film has is that it almost feels like an anachronism. I don’t know if it was trying to ride the tail of the J-horror binge that plagued the first half of the last decade, but in this day and age a supernatural chiller needs a little bit more than taps turning on and fucking planchettes that spell out “mummy’s girl”. This is the laziest piece of supernatural menacing that I’ve seen in a long time. Against that, though, they were clearly hoping that the tension between the characters may have made up the difference with Tom growing increasingly paranoid and the film winding up to a them-or-us crescendo. They’re right. It may have done. If they had bothered to write anything resembling character, that is.
There are other touches to this film that just make it laughably bad. Tom and Adele’s sex session leaping to mind where they slap each other for a while and then get involved in some nasty asphyxiative sex. There’s no boob on show, though, so don’t even think about it. The entire scene is pitiful. Pitiful and embarrassing.
The real problem here is that we’ve seen everything this film has to offer done much better elsewhere. There isn’t a single beat in this film that could be called remotely original, the twist is derisory and insulting (I spotted it very early on), the cinematography and direction are mundane, the writing is at best pedestrian and the direction is uninspired. There’s no boob and no gore to distract you, so what you are left with is a mildly dull film about 5 tools trapped in a house going nuts. Personally, and I may be being cynical, but I need a ghost story to actual generate some tension, to scare me a little bit and on this score Spirit Trap is an abject failure.
It infuriates me when the British film industry bangs this toss out. It’s just such a monstrous waste of time for all involved. The only possible reason for seeing this is if you have an inordinately large crush on Piper, and even then I can’t recommend the film on that level when Memoirs of a Slag or whatever it’s called is out there.
Overall, Spirit Trap is a boring waste of time. In an industry struggling to survive like the British Film Industry, it is insulting that valuable resources that could have been used elsewhere were given for this rubbish. Spirit Trap hasn’t got a single recommending point aside from bare competence, and as such is a poxy, tiresome, irrelevant waste of time. If you must make ghost stories, then please show some fucking moxie and come up with something a bit different. Don’t churn out a relic from the 1930’s and think that mild bondage makes it edgy. It fucking doesn’t and I wish I hadn’t seen it.
Spirit Trap can have 1 crap ghost out of 4, and that’s for bare competence and a good location (even if it isn’t used particularly well). Don’t bother.
Until next time,