Spirit Trap Movie Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
DVD released by First Look Studios
Directed by David Smith
Written by Rohan Candappa, Paul Finch, Phil O'Shea
2005, 91 Minutes, Rated 15
DVD released on November 21st, 2005
Billie Piper as Jenny
Luke Mably as Tom
Sam Troughton as Nick
Emma Catherwood as Adele
Alsou as Tina
Spirit Trap is, in essence, a combination of Shallow Grave and The Haunting, with a little Candyman added in. Unfortunately it’s not as stylish or bold as Shallow Grave, as frightening as The Haunting, and it doesn’t have the resonance or shock value of Candyman.
Four students move to a creaky old house somewhere in London. Two are very ordinary British students (Jenny – Billie Piper and Nick – Sam Troughton) and two are violent, kinky, paranoid, over-dressed, junkies (Tom – Luke Mably and Adele – Emma Catherwood). This house has a violent history. And as the film progresses, we begin to learn that the housemates all have histories too.
Tom and Adele are dramatic, glamorous archetypes — they’re not like anyone I went to university with, and you’re not likely to bump into people like that down the pub. Jenny and Nick, on the other hand, are just like everyone I went to university with — polite, banal, and believable. While the growing tension and paranoia of Tom and Adele was compelling to watch (and Luke Mably does a good job with a tough part as Tom) something seemed rather out of place. The two groups placed next to each other really jarred and while initially I felt it was the high drama of Tom and Adele that didn’t work, perhaps it was the dull realism of Jenny and Nick, after all. I constantly found myself thinking things like, “Students in London would never be able to afford a property that large!” and, “What kind of person moves into student accommodation expecting there to be a TV and telephone already installed?” Spirit Trap is, perhaps, treading too fine a line between drama and realism, and it may be the case that larger-than-life characters are better suited to films like this, where suspension of disbelief is paramount.
Spirit Trap is likely to be notable to anyone in the UK for starring Billie Piper (ex-pop star who was popular in her role as Rose Tyler in the recent series of "Doctor Who"). She does a fine job as Jenny, the twenty-something student, but this isn’t an especially dramatic or interesting role and she’s barely given a chance to flex her acting muscles. Alsou as the enigmatic Nina is the only member of the cast who’s a bit of a let down. She sings the track over the closing credits and so I suspect some kind of tie-in may have been afoot.
Spirit Trap isn’t ultra-real, gruelling survival horror; it’s a rather predictable, highly derivative, but still ultimately entertaining haunted house movie. If anything, it’s rather old fashioned and tame in its sensibilities, despite the references to drugs and mildly kinky sex, with all traces of gore left until the end, not too much swearing and a cross-class love story at its heart. The nice thing about Spirit Trap is its pacing and structure. Salient plot points and bits of character information are dealt out steadily and carefully, so the audience is kept interested.
There are problems with the internal logic of Spirit Trap, and some of the “rules” of the haunting seem rather arbitrary. However, it’s a perfectly watchable film, and acceptable use of an hour and a half.