Deadlands 2: Trapped Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
I ran when daddy woke up. – Little Girl
Written and directed by Gary Ugarek
2008, 90 minutes, Not rated
Jim Krut as Dr. Robert Mitchell
Joseph D. Durbin as Sean
Chris L. Clark as Chris
Josh Davidson as Jack
Ashley Young as Casey
Corrine Brush as Shelly
Alexa Davidson as Little Girl
One of Gary Ugarek's greatest strengths is he wants to tell an epic story. The writer/director of Deadlands: The Rising and Deadlands 2: Trapped, Ugarek's zombie films are closer to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) than Zack Snyder's 2004 remake — even if Ugarek's films do have running zombies.
Deadlands: The Rising, Ugarek's first film, was very enjoyable. Some found it slow, some found there was not enough gore, some didn't like the microbudget, and I can see all of those points. Yet since it was Ugarek's first film, and it was obvious he was trying not to make just another zombie movie, I cut him some slack. The Rising wasn't just about the gore and the makeup, but the story, as well. It wanted to be something more, and you could see that trying to bust out, but due to lack of budget and to some degree experience, it was hindered from being all it could be.
Deadlands 2: Trapped, the sequel to The Rising, suffers somewhat from the same issues as the first. It, too, wants to be bigger than it is and is also restricted by its budget, but I can't give Ugarek a pass this time. I applaud him for wanting to put storytelling and character development at the forefront, because he should do that, but I'm afraid he can't see the trees for the forest. It seems Ugarek is so focused on the big picture, he's neglecting some of the finer details.
The film's story is incredibly simple (and that's just fine). A shady government agency (led by Jim Krut, best known as the "helicopter zombie" in the original Dawn of the Dead, and doing a fine job here) unleashes a toxic gas to the unsuspecting citizens of Hagerstown. The gas, of course, turns those who ingest it into zombies. And, following strict zombie guidelines, those bitten by the infected become infected.
After their friend is bitten by a zombie, Sean (Joseph Durbin) and Shelly (Corrine Brush) rush him to the closest place for help, a movie theater that has closed for the night. There they are given refuge by employees Chris (Chris Clark) and Casey (Ashley Young). Then the zombies come and all hell breaks loose.
Trapped's biggest problem, hands down, is its acting. Normally, I give a lot of rope to acting in a low-budget feature. A whole lot. But Trapped is unique in that it has two highly capable actors that play second fiddle to two mediocre actors (and I'm speaking of mediocre on a low-budget scale). In a movie where story takes precedence over action, you better damn well make sure that you have actors that can handle the load, and frustratingly enough, Trapped does have those actors, but they are miscast. The two female leads, Corrine Brush and Ashley Young are leagues better than their male counterparts Chris Clark and Joseph Durbin. Young really shines when her character, Casey, decides she has enough and loses it, screaming at Chris, then the zombies. More believable, more emotion and more charisma, if Ugarek had just reversed the roles, these two young ladies would have rocked the casbah, elevating the movie to one of those rare instances where the sequel is better than its predecessor.
However, I will eagerly say that as a filmmaker, Ugarek has grown. The pacing on the review copy I've received is much better than its predecessor, and I imagine it will only get better, as Ugarek has told me that he is tightening it up even more since he sent out the review discs — which is good, because it can move quicker. In addition, like its predecessor, the film has something that is lacking from low-budget movies of this type 99% of the time: extras. Even though it has a micro-budget, Trapped feels big. Much of this has to do with the number of different people you see in the film, the numerous locations Ugarek had access to, and some of the shots in general show a talent that goes much further than of the point-and-shoot variety.
Trapped's ending is jarring, obviously meant to merely set up a third movie in the "Deadlands" universe. On one hand, I'm eager to see more of this world that Ugarek has created for us. On the other, I don't want more of the same, and I want Ugarek to break away from the zombie genre for a film or two, just to see what else he has to offer. The man has a story to tell and I want to listen, but I don't want to hear the same story for a third time (although because of Trapped's sudden stop, I have no choice but to wonder what happens next).
With Trapped, Ugarek has taken two steps forward technically, but two steps back by not addressing the acting before it was too late. Some would argue that the blame would fall on the actors, but good directors know the blame for this lie with them. Ugarek is a good director, so I hold him accountable. I look forward to Ugarek's next movie, be it another Deadlands or not. There's no denying he's both talented and is learning from his mistakes. His growth as a director is going to be an interesting watch, because I believe he will continue to get better. It's just too bad that the lead roles in front of the camera didn't have the talent of the one behind it.
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.