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IN THE TRAP (2019)

Directed by Alessio Liguori
Written by Daniele Cosci & Alessio Liguori
Starring Jamie Paul, David Bailie, Paola Bontempi, Robert Nairne, Sonya Cullingford, Delena Kidd, Miriam Galanti, Jude Forsey, Amelia Clay, Leila Gauntlett

What an odd little film. If I understand it correctly, IN THE TRAP is a sort of exorcism, descent into madness, and downright religious film. The budget seems to be fairly high. The performances are decent (though I do have some issues with them that I’ll get into later). And some of the effects scenes are darn right effective. Still, there is something off about IN THE TRAP and I hope I can get to it by the end of this review.

Jamie Paul plays Philip, a transcriber of religious tomes. Philip is also an agoraphobic, afraid to leave the house he grew up in due to fears something horrible will happen if he leaves. His sister was abducted and murdered when both of them were small and it appears that a dark, demonic entity is the culprit. Now an adult, Philip is still plagued by dreams and paranoia. Even after meeting the girl of his dreams, it seems she becomes possessed by the devil. Only his mentor Father Andrew (David Bailie) seems to know what is best for Philip and tries to steer him away from Satanic temptation that appears to be attracted to Phillip’s innocence.

There is a lot going on with the plot of IN THE TRAP. There are two main twists before things wrap up and I feel that might have been one twist too many. I feel this is a film that promotes the power of faith, which is fine. Religion has been a powerful antidote in many a horror film from DRACULA to THE EXORCIST. But it is this reliance that faith is a cure all that makes me suspicious that the belief The Word of God was a little too strong with the folks behind the camera. Having a prayer banish all of the evil away just feels a bit too simplistic in this cynical day and age. Maybe the filmmakers were going for a throwback style of ultimate good vs. ultimate evil. But everything wraps up into a nice little bow by the end and while horrors were had, I think the message might have steered the ship a little too much and instead of bringing this horror film to its logical conclusion (after the first twist), it feels as if a new conclusion was tacked on in the end. I felt as if I’d watched a Church of Latter-Day Saints commercial by the end and that’s a little too saccharine for my tastes. I know I’m being vague, but I want to try to avoid spoilers for those who want to take a chance on it.

There are quite a few scenes that are chilling. Demons and shadows move around in Philip’s home. Furniture moves. Lights go on and off. It’s your standard haunting fare, but it’s done with a deft hand. The music, though, needed to be toned down. Scenes of suspense were made somewhat comical by the intensity of the musical score. Sometimes there are loud music beats that seem to want to signify something extremely horrifying going on, but it’s simply the camera panning from one room to the next. The use of religious iconography such as crosses, lit candles, rosaries, and so on, are sold as being absolutely shocking when they are presented in cliched demonic ways such as being on fire, hung upside down, or being destroyed. That stuff might have been shocking in simpler times, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen in a million and one music videos since the eighties. That stuff just isn’t shocking anymore, but it feels as if it is supposed to be taken by the viewer to be something that would incite pants to be filled.

No to keep on piling the criticism, but I had major issues with actor Jamie Paul. His character is supposed to be innocent, but Paul plays him almost cherub-like. His high pitched voice and poor me attitude made him a tough character to root for. The guy spends half of the film weeping heavily and it’s tough to empathize with someone so pathetic and milquetoast. I don’t know if the blame should be on the script that called for it or the guidance from the director or simply the style of the actor, but I found the character dislikable. Actor David Bailie does provide some heft and comes off as a much more powerful character as Father Andrew. He’s a bit Obi Wan like, but still, he provided a welcome counterbalance to Paul’s whines.

I feel like I ripped IN THE TRAP a new one here. It is capably made and decently acted for the most part, but I feel that it was made by people who clutch their pearls when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain. While the possessed demons had a potty mouth (as all good possessed people must have), the rest of the cast seemed like they were recruited from THE FATHER DOWLING MYSTERIES. I guess I just like my horror with a little more teeth and a little less righteousness. If that doesn’t bother you, then I guess you might enjoy IN THE TRAP more than I did.