Glass Trap

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 08/02/05 15:25:37

"Every scene is straight out of the direct-to-video B movie handbook."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Fred Olen Ray, ladies and gentlemen. Fred Olen Ray.

For the uninitiated, Fred Olen Ray - whose name flows so well that it seems impossible to call him just by one name - is a schlockmeister of the highest order, so much so that I’d like to believe he’s proud of such a title, perhaps even having “schlockmeister” printed on his business cards. The filmmaker, a versatile writer/director/producer/actor/et cetera, has churned out a slew of light-hearted crappers over the years; the Internet Movie Database puts the count at 87 films directed under various pseudonyms, 70 of them coming in the past fifteen years alone. These projects range from the theatrical (who can forget such titles as “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers,” “Demon Cop,” and “Bad Girls From Mars?”) to the more recent soft-core Cinemax offering (“Bikini A Go Go,” anyone?) to the direct-to-video shocker (“Tomb of the Werewolf” and “Air Rage” lack a certain zest to their titles, don’tcha think?). Oh, and he also wrestles in the indie circuit under the name “Fabulous Freddie Valentine.”

In other words, seeing Fred Olen Ray’s name in the opening credits is a good indicator of cheap times ahead. It’s also a cue to the critic to relax, for even if the movie’s a dud, at least you can waste a paragraph or two pulling some quickie commentary from the filmmaker’s busy past. “Bikini Drive-In.” Hee.

Anyway. His latest nudity-free straight-to-video effort is “Glass Trap,” an odd little mix of disaster movie and giant bug movie. The story concerns some illegal fertilizer of some sort that causes ants to grow to the size of, say, a large schnauzer; these ants manage to nest in the basement of a skyscraper, terrorizing the few slobs unfortunate enough to be working on a Saturday (which include B movie dependables C. Thomas Howell, Chick Vennera, and Peter Spellos). The survivors find each other, figure out an escape plan, have their escape plan go kerplooey, ward off swarms of giant, hungry killer ants. You know, the usual.

To its credit, the film never takes itself seriously. There’s a good chunk of winking humor to be found here, most of it coming from Stella Stevens (!), who stars as a bitchy magazine editor. Through Stevens, we get such memorable lines as “screw you, Jiminy Cricket!!” And there’s a whole subplot involving a fashion photographer and two underwear models; the jiggle factor is so blatantly obvious that its stupidity is forgivable.

But here’s the problem, and it’s a problem that affects many a Fred Olen Ray movie. “Glass Trap” is lighthearted, to be sure, but it’s never actually funny. Nor is it ever frightening. It gets close to the former at times - a scene in which the local sheriff questions the believability of “giant angry radioactive ants” is worth a snicker or two - but the film refuses to go too far into comedy. It backs off too much, asking us to let it wink at itself but never bringing us in on the joke. It’s one of those movies that looks like it was a gas to make. To watch, though? Not so much.

And scary? Forget it. Not once does Fred Olen Ray jack up the tension, or the mystery, or the gruesomeness. We get a few obligatory shots of bloody corpses, and the finale is designed to be a race-against-the-clock scenario, but neither is actually nerve-wracking. The movie simply takes us through the motions of a monster flick without bothering at any time to wind us up.

Like many direct-to-video features, “Glass Trap” will do the trick for those who rent these kind of things. It’s harmless in its dumbness, painless in its “gee, get a load of these fake ants we whipped up” presentation. But it’s not very entertaining, either. Like most Fred Olen Ray movies, it’s just kinda there, taking up space on the video store shelf. I watched, I yawned, and then I kicked myself for not spending my time watching “Them!” instead.

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