It sure is a treat when you stumble upon a Christmas movie that’s made in Wisconsin! Throw in cannibals and you’ve got a real holiday hit.
Trapped Alive is a 1988 slasher set in Vilas County, just over the border from Michigans UP. It’s beautiful, snowy and apparently has mines. It was produced by Windsor Lake Studios, which also made the wintery slasher The Chill Factor. Both are available from Arrow. So thank you, Arrow, for your oddly specific work in restoring Wisconsin cinema! I won’t hold it against you for not asking me to contribute to your Bill Rebane box set…
This isn’t a very Christmas movie, but it does open up with a Christmas party. So that’s enough to count for me!
When friends Robin and Monica leave Robin’s dad’s Christmas party, they head off in the snow to a different one. But along the way, the two girls have car troubles. Unbeknownst to them, a trio of convicts escape from a nearby prison. While the girls are stuck in the snow, the men hijack the car and kidnap the girls.
As one of the escapees, Randy, drives off the path and crashes into an unseen mineshaft below. Another convict, Mungo, crashes through the windshield and soon dies. Stuck in the mine, the remaining four attempt to find some light and discover a different way out of the mine.
Meanwhile, some weird shit is going on above ground. A local officer, Billy, stops at a house near the crash. There he meets a woman who lets him borrow her phone, then um, gets it on with him? The officer doesn’t bother to even get her name.
As Billy canoodles, the rest of the gang down in the mine get into plenty of trouble. Randy finds a generator and tries to fix it. He goes back to Mungo’s body to get a lighter, and he then sees that something (or someone) has eaten the body’s face and intestines.
Before he can return to the rest of the group, he’s caught by Billy, who follows him into the mine. When the two men arrive they’re able to stop “Face”, the leader of the prisoners, from assaulting Monica. They also release Robin from a dark room that Face locked her in, where she swears something was with her.
Billy handcuffs Face to a gate and Randy to the generator. But while the group tries to figure out what to do next, Face is attacked by a giant claw-thing and lifted into the air. A crazed-looking man then makes a Christmas feast out of Face.
Shocked by what they’ve seen, the survivors realise they need to escape not only the mine but a cannibal.
Spoilers ahead. But we eventually find out that the man in the mine is the house lady’s dad (whose name we learn is Rachel. Thanks for asking, Billy.). Apparently, her dad was the sole survivor of a mine collapse years ago. He survived for years after no rescue team would save him.
I have questions. Like with Death Line, why did these people just not go above ground? They clearly survived by people coming in and eating them. Surely if there’s a way in, there’s a way out? And the mine shaft that the car crashed into didn’t even seem that deep!
But we don’t watch Wisconsin-set cannibal mineshaft movies for realism!
Trapped Alive doesn’t make much sense. It also stops for several minutes just to build up as to why Randy is a good guy and we should really care about him. But it’s fun! Giant claws (I’m sure there’s a technical mining term here that I’m not aware of). Real evil villains that you love to watch die. It’s not really festive, but it does do the trick.
Veteran actor Cameron Mitchell (How to Marry a Millionare, Blood and Black Lace) gets top billing here, but as Robin’s father, he doesn’t actually get too much screen time. The crew was obviously psyched to get him and use him as much as possible. But the poor man does a lot of staring longingly into the distance.
Trapped Alive isn’t going to change lives, but it’s strange enough to warrant watching. Also shout out to the local actors whose Wisconsin accents slip through every now and then.
“You don’t know how to tell good guys from baaahd guys!”