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Stop me if you’ve heard this before: five college students move into an old derelict house and encounters strange going-ons that eventually makes them turn on one another. And oh yeah, a quija board (or a variation of one) comes into play. Plus, the Fair Hair lead is blonde, empathetic, and is haunted by her past. Thankfully, she’s also psychic, which comes in handy when it’s time to explain the reasons behind all the weirdness, as she has the ability to “see” what happened and get the answers. If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s almost the exact same premise and narrative construction as “Boo!”, which was itself just like a thousand other movies. Originality, thy name isn’t “Spirit Trap”.
The star here is Billie Piper, who is currently getting some good face time on the BBC’s new “Doctor Who” series. Piper plays Jenny, the Fair Hair Lead mentioned above. The haunted past in Jenny’s life is the death of her mother, who Jenny later confesses to nice guy housemate Nick (Sam Troughton) that she “killed”. The rest of Jenny’s housemates include the handsome but very much an asshole Tom (Luke Mably), his slutty girlfriend Adele (Emma Catherwood), and Tina, the shy and introverted girl who spends most of her time in either her room or the bathroom. As expected, they all have haunted pasts that come back to bite them at a later date thanks to the house. Or more precisely, the angry, ghostly spirits within.
It goes without saying that those demanding even a tiny inkling of originality needn’t bother with “Spirit Trap”, a movie so clich’d in just about everything it does that genre fans will be rolling their eyes each time director David Smith and writer Phil O’Shea dishes out the tropes of the genre. In this case, they’ll be rolling their eyes a lot. The first 30 minutes consist of one long dull build-up, as if Smith and O’Shea thought we, the genre audience, needs to be introduced to stock characters like Jenny and company. We don’t. We’ve seen them thousands of times before, and in similar circumstances. And we can also figure out who is going to die, too, and in what order. The film is just so unoriginal that it’s almost condescending.
Strangely, for a film so devoted to being formulaic and predictable, “Spirit Trap” doesn’t always deliver on the goods that genre fans expect, even from the worst offerings of the niche. The film’s lone highlight involves the slutty Adele, whose idea of foreplay is to play a slapping game with boyfriend Tom before the two indulges in asphyxiation during clothed sex. As expected, Jenny and Nick are terrible bores, and actors Billie Piper and Sam Troughton play their archetypical characters straight. The rest of the cast are decent, but alas, this really is a case of actors not having anything at all to work with.
Without belaboring the point, if you’re an old hand with the horror genre, there’s just no reason whatsoever to waste your time with “Spirit Trap”. It just isn’t much of a movie, even for seekers of cheap thrills, because the film has so few of those as well. Director David Smith certainly doesn’t help matters, because the film looks pedestrian and by-the-numbers. At 90 minutes, the first 30 seems like an eternity, as the filmmakers painstakingly build up their generic characters for God knows why. The rest of the film isn’t any better, with a lot of boo scares that wouldn’t scare a baby tot. The usual ghostly apparitions are here, including the “ghost is standing behind you in the bathroom mirror!” moments that will have genre fans snickering with disgust.
The British horror film industry has gotten quite a boost lately, thanks mostly to films by Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later”) and Neil Marshall (“Dog Soldiers” and the recent “The Descent”), but “Spirit Trap” seems like a step backwards. The overall lack of originality in “Spirit Trap” is disconcerting, especially since it seems to have a decent budget, and as mentioned, the cast is quite good. It’s too bad they’ve signed up for such a generic schlock of a movie that offers few redeeming qualities. Mainstream viewers may find the film mildly entertaining, but those in the know will not, and should not, give it a second thought.
David Smith (director) / Phil O’Shea (screenplay)
CAST: Billie Piper …. Jenny
Luke Mably …. Tom
Emma Catherwood …. Adele
Sam Troughton …. Nick
Alsou …. Tina
Ovidiu Matesan …. Zack