Before toy giant Hasbro got into the blockbuster biz with the Transformers, G.I. Joe and Ouija franchises, it dipped its toes into the movie game with, well, a movie you could play as a game. Initially released for the Sega console, the CD-ROM Night Trap presented itself as a “U-Direct Film,” a rather toothless quasi-slasher that nonetheless generated enough controversy to become the subject of Senate hearings, get yanked from store shelves and result in the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Viewing the footage today, one wonders why Congress got its collective panties in such a bunch.
In the prologue, Lt. Simms (William Jones, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn), the skunk-haired leader of the Special Control Attack Team — yep, S.C.A.T.! — directly addresses the player with the setup. At the home of Victor and Sheila Martin (Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s Jon Rashad Kamal and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’s Molly Starr, reminding one of the Taster’s Choice coffee couple from the ad campaign of that era), five teen girls have disappeared while staying there as guests. Now, five more are staying the night, but this time, one of them, Kelly (Dana Plato, TV’s Diff’rent Strokes), is actually an undercover S.C.A.T. agent. Because the Martins’ suburban house is wired with hidden cameras and elaborate traps, Simms instructs players to control those things in order to save the young ladies’ lives, not to mention find out who — or what — is responsible. No worries — Kelly is always breaking the fourth wall to all but hit the button for you.
The girls immediately get down to some innocent partying — you know, a little crushing cookies into bowls of ice cream here, a little tennis-racket guitar antics there. (The latter is scored to Sunny BlueSkyes’ butt-rock theme song containing lines like “You’ll be caught in the night / Night trap!”) Almost as immediately, the threat appears, and it’s not the red-herring neighbor, Weird Eddie (William Bertrand, Attack of the Baby Doll). Instead, it comes in the form of “the Augers,” which are vampires dressed in what looks like scuba gear; their weapon of choice resembles a pool skimmer retrofitted to encircle a victim’s neck to drain it of blood. There’s also a little boy present, wielding a homemade laser gun, which makes as much sense as why there’s a trapdoor at the bottom of the stairs, not to mention a bed that flings its sleepers backward and out a second-story window.
Directed by James W. Riley and Randy Field, Night Trap contains no sex, no nudity and no violence that is not cartoonish. If anything were to offend the public, it should have been not that women were preyed upon by draculian frogmen, but that they were portrayed as helpless, shrieking shrews — and moreover, the kind who spend their free time pretending to shred on a Dunlop like they’re Stevie Ray Vaughn. Hell, let’s also throw in the injustice of the one black guy (Arthur Burghardt, Network’s Great Ahmed Kahn) being forced to don a painter’s cap with upturned bill, a Hawaiian shirt and a Jamaican accent — and all while being 14th-billed to Dana Plato. —Rod Lott