And Now, a Complete Code Red Overhaul: Trapped (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Now in contrast to my last Code Red DVD/ Blu-ray comparison, Trick Or Treats, where very little changed from the first release to the second, here's one where the movie got a complete overhaul: 1982's Trapped.  Again, Code Red handled both the DVD and the blu-ray editions, and seemed to even use the same source materials, but this time the two versions look nothing alike!

Released on VHS as The Killer Instinct, Trapped is another one of those Deliverance-inspired horror films, like Just Before Dawn, Rituals or The Final Terror, where escaping backwoods killers is mixed with the dangers of surviving in the wilderness.  Here, we have a little bit less of the wilderness drama, but we double down on the evil rednecks thanks to a commanding performance by Henry Silva, who makes all those other movies' killers look like certifiable wimps.
We start out with a little cross-cutting between some Southeastern Tennessee State University (which I'm pretty sure is not an actual University) college students pontificating on the unshakeable morality of their value system, and some small town Southerners living up to exactly zero of those principles.  Of course, we can all see it coming: these kids who think they know it all are going to have their values challenged when they decide to spend the weekend camping in the wrong neck of the woods.  Here, Silva rules over his small community with fear and violence, and when they wind up witnessing a local murder, they're going to have to adapt to this old way of life quickly to survive.

This is definitely more of a tacky exploitation film than Deliverance or Rituals, but unlike most horror films, I actually think it improves over repeat viewings.  Like all these wilderness horror flicks, you've got some great backgrounds and locations.  There's a couple really impressive kills and an exciting climax, and while the plot's highly predictable, everyone in the cast does a good job of selling it.  Again, that especially goes for Silva, who really takes the brunt of this film on his shoulders and makes a lot of potentially rote and hackneyed scenes compelling and entertaining.  A subtle but effective soundtrack helps elevate the material as well.  You can tell the filmmakers decided they were going to make the best movie they could with this material.
For whatever reason, despite being a pretty good movie, and certainly better than many of its peers, Trapped is one of those off-the-radar movies that had never been released on DVD, or even laserdisc, before Code Red rescued it from obscurity in 2009.  Their DVD was pretty barebones, but at least it was uncut and widescreen.  After a quiet life of rare fullscreen television and VHS appearances, this was the first time any of us had the opportunity to see it in its original aspect ratio, unless we'd caught it back during its original, limited theatrical release.  But still, it looked kind of over saturated and, well, you'll see in a moment.  So it was welcome news Code Red announced their a fresh HD master for brand new blu-ray release in 2016.  Just look at how far it's come.
2009 Code Red DVD on top; 2016 Code Red blu-ray bottom.
Both transfers were taken from the original interpositive, but the DVD looks really... pixelated?  Or is that video noise?  Certainly the colors and contrast are highly boosted, which does bring make the image pop, but it also looks really unnatural.  It probably looks better in the smaller thumbnails than fullscreen.  I mean, look at the blue on that guy's hat in the second shot, it bleeds almost an inch over the top of his head.  The blu-ray may be flatter and less lively, but it's much more photo-realistic, and the HD doubles up on the detail.  And frankly, the washed, faded look fits the tone of the film much more, anyway - backwoods rednecks who've been wearing the same shirt every day for years probably shouldn't have bright, neon glows.

It also has to be pointed out that, while both films are 1.78:1 and taken from the same IP, the framing is still clearly different.  I don't think either really has more picture information than the other, but the DVD is framed higher and the blu lower.  So what that means is we see more along the top of the DVD, and more along the bottom of the blu.  I can't really say if either looks more correct than the other.  Theoretically, the film should probably be matted to 1.85:1, so the extra picture along the top of the DVD and bottom of the blu are just that: extra; and 100% of what we're supposed to see is in both transfers.  So it's an academic distinction.
2009 Code Red DVD on top; 2016 Code Red blu-ray bottom.
But the look of this new blu is not without some controversy.  While I don't think anyone would argue the bulk of this film looks heaps better on the blu-ray, some scenes - the night scenes - have taken raised some questions.  About maybe twenty or so minutes of this film take place at night, so the majority of this film is "safe," but there's no question that the night scenes on the blu lose a lot of detail, as you can see above.  But here's another thing you'll notice about the scenes above... the DVD scenes look to be taking place mid-day, right?  Basically, the film has one long nighttime sequence.  But some of the scenes were shot day-for-night, and on the DVD, there's no nighttime filtering, so some nighttime shots look like bright afternoon.  And if you watch the film on DVD, it's confusing and makes no sense; it constantly keeps switching back and forth between visible day and night.  Really, even before the blu was released and I could see how the scenes were meant to be filtered, it error was jarring.  You didn't have to be a seasoned critic to realize something was wrong, and it just made you feel like the filmmakers were dummies, and this was the kind of thing you'd see on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So as far as I'm concerned, this is another huge improvement on the blu-ray's part.  It makes the night scenes look like genuine nighttime and everything matches.  The film finally plays the way it's supposed to.  Yes, we do lose a lot of visual information in some scenes, whole faces are suddenly lost in blackness.  But never to the point where you can't make out the action or anything.  And again, those DVD versions of the scene aren't just wrong in the fact that they're clearly bright daylight, but they still have that boosted, over-saturated look.  Yes, I can imagine another HD transfer that uncrushes some of those blacks a little and gives us more detail, but I'm perfectly fine with the night scenes on the current blu as-is, and I definitely happily take them over the way they're presented on the DVD.
Oh, but that's only controversy #1 of 2 with this blu-ray release, though again I'll come in the blu's defense, though maybe not quite so strongly.  Controversy #2 is this film's sound.  Yeah, it's poor.  If this was one of those sites that gave everything number or letter grades, I couldn't give this sound an A or B... probably not even a C.  So what can I say in its defense?  Well, first of all, the DVD wasn't any better.  In fact, it's even worse.  The sound is really muffled and awash in a see of crackling and hiss, to the point where it can be genuinely hard to make out what's being said in some scenes.  Most of the time it's not too bad, but it's always troubled, and during the worst moments, you'd have to turn up the volume really high to hear what's being said, and then the rest of the noise would hurt your ears.

For the blu-ray, the same mono source was obviously used, but some effort was clearly put into cleaning it up.  The hiss is gone, and so is almost all the crackling (it still pops up a bit at times, especially around reel changes).  Unfortunately, it also reveals that a lot of the sound quality wasn't just being obscured by the excess noise, it just wasn't there.  Take away the hiss, and the dialogue is still quiet and muffled; though at least it's safer to crank the volume without the noise blowing out your eardrums.  And I don't think they did a sloppy, destructive clean-up (I know what that's like, having taught myself how to edit audio); I just think the audio elements Code Red were working with lost a lot of quality over time.  So, short of discovering better source materials, my defense is that I believe this is A) as good as Trapped can sound, and B) a big improvement over the DVD.  But it's still poor sound for blu-ray standards, or even DVD.
As for extras, there's really not much.  The DVD only featured a Spanish version of the original theatrical trailer, plus some Code Red bonus trailers.  And the blu-ray doesn't have much more, but it does improve things nominally.  First of all, they now have the original trailer in English, so we can finally understand what the narrator is saying.  So that's a nice, little upgrade (though it might've been fun if the blu kept the Spanish as a separate audio track).  and the only other thing on here is the addition of the option to watch Trapped in Katarina's Bucket List Theater Mode, where host Katarina Waters gives the film a brief video introduction and wrap-up.  However bad you imagine the Southern accent she puts on for this to be, believe me, it's worse.  haha
So, at the end of the day, I was happy with the Trapped DVD at the time, especially since it was our first crack at the film at all, but I'm really happy to be replacing it with the blu.  And say what you like about the disc's flaws, they're still big improvements over the DVD.  Now, there is a new German blu-ray of Trapped that just came out, too; but from what I've been able to gather, apart from the additional German language options, it's essentially the same as Code Red's, bad audio and all.  So I highly recommend the blu-ray release.  It's an underrated film on an underrated disc.

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