Night Trap (1993)

David A Prior was, by 1993, firmly in his new mindset of producing competent straight-to-video work to fill those Blockbuster shelves. The man we grew to…love?…with his bonkers Vietnam vet stories, is now like any one of a hundred hacks. So I’m sorry, dear reader, that these reviews will be somewhat less in-depth than you’re used to, mostly because there’s just not that much to write about.

What we have here is a rare starring role for Robert Davi, who’d clearly signed a two-movie deal with AIP, after his supporting role in “Center of the Web”. He’s Mike Turner, your standard-issue tortured cop, and he is, for reasons never adequately explained, part of a stakeout watching a hot naked woman pretend she’s having sex while being in bed on her own, as Bishop (the great Michael Ironside) watches from the other side of the room – he’s in the same room as her, not the same room as Turner.

Bishop throws the poor girl out of the window and then, as the cops chase him through the building, kills Turner’s partner before apparently falling to his death after being shot multiple times. No muss, no fuss, until Bishop’s body can’t be found and he starts calling Turner, telling him he has three days to redeem himself, to kill him or be killed himself.

Rounding out this top-level B-movie cast is Leslie Ann Down as Turner’s ex-wife Christine and John Amos as the surprisingly level-headed police captain, who obviously doesn’t believe in the supernatural shenanigans; there’s also a decent supporting turn from ISCFC alum Lydie Denier (“Project Viper”, “SharkMan”) as the dead girl’s roommate / Turner’s new love interest. And if you’re really into deep cuts, Jack Forcinito, who many years later would star in “Silent Night, Zombie Night”, shows up here in a very early role as a sarcastic cop who gets punched out by Turner when he goes too far.

The setting (New Orleans) and the subject matter (people being killed, demonic unease) is clearly meant to bring to mind “Angel Heart”, one of the greatest films of the 1980s. Sadly, they didn’t have quite the same level of source material to draw from – Alan Parker’s script, from the novel by William Hjortsberg, for one, and David A Prior directing his own script for the other – and while they make an effort to bring some atmosphere to proceedings, it never quite lands.

So, Bishop keeps killing women and, thanks to the magical black person trope, we learn about his backstory. He was the force of nature who killed women back in Salem until the church took over, then just carried on killing women down the centuries anyway. Turner keeps chasing Bishop, and there’s a very oddly done fight scene atop a moving train, which feels like it was crowbarred in because they had the train set left over from “Center of the Web” and decided to re-use it.

Even in a cheap little movie like this, there’s attempts made at artistry, such as the scene which juxtaposes the two men having sex – well, Bishop ties a woman up who thinks she’s going to have sex, then kills her; Turner indeed has sex with his beautiful new French-Canadian girlfriend. It’s quite well done, but it ends up inadvertently leading to one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen, in this or any other movie.

Turner keeps his shirt on during sex, and also never moves. She’s there, naked and gyrating and doing everything a B-movie woman is supposed to do, but during the first half of proceedings, he’s entirely fully clothed, and when they move to the end-game, you can only see his top half and he’s still got his black t-shirt on. What the hell? I’m not saying anyone bought “Night Trap” to see Robert Davi’s bare chest, but it looks so ridiculous I can’t believe they approved it. Does he have a huge Nazi tattoo? Too many weird scars? Or did he just turn up to the set and refuse to take his shirt off, and they couldn’t do what they did in “Deadly Dancer” and replace him with a body double because it was short notice? I have absolutely no idea, but it’s one of the stupidest things I can remember and if Davi just refused to do it, then shame on him.

I could never quite figure out why Bishop was so obsessed with Turner, despite there being other people in the movie he met long in the past and allowed to live (no spoilers!) There’s also no evidence that the plot as described on the VHS box is the same as the one we actually see – I mean, it may be a soul-selling thing, but no-one says that and Bishop never really hints at it. He’s just a guy who’s been around killing people for hundreds of years.

The pacing is strange, too, as it gets going, then has five minutes of Turner sat around not doing much of anything, with people not believing him til way too near the end – it’s a little over 90 minutes but could have been ten minutes shorter and no-one would have been upset (apart from the actors left on the cutting room floor, I guess). If you’re generous, you could say that “Batman Begins” rips off a central part of the plot from “Night Trap”, but it doesn’t make it any better.

It could have been good, but it really only aimed for average, and it landed that perfectly.

Rating: thumbs down

PS I also just discovered there was a computer game called “Night Trap” from 1992, which was a very early example of a sort of interactive movie. I wouldn’t normally mention it but it “starred” ISCFC alum and cautionary tale in human form Dana Plato, and was so infamous that it drove all searches for the Prior movie off the first few pages of Google. Here’s a gif:

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