TV REVIEW : 'Trapped': High-Rise Terror on USA Network

"Trapped" (9-11 tonight on cable's USA Network) is a tightly wrought thriller distinguished by its frequent use of the subjective eye (or camera "I," if you will)--in this case visual angles that catch the terrified point of view of a woman stalked by a killer in a high-rise office building.

Kathleen Quinlan, as a management executive in a 63-story complex still under construction, fills a cliche role with chills. Working too late one night, she finds herself locked in the sprawling skyscraper with all the telephones dead, not to mention her secretary and a heartless CEO whose toxic waste dumping has triggered the killer's dementia.

Director and co-writer Fred Walton delivers a basic primer in taut suspense. The craftmanship is assured, careening between first- and third-person storytelling, creating terror in elevators, parking areas, rooftops and marble corridors. Here is a genre thriller notable not for what you see but for what you feel and hear.

The opening sequence, for example, perfectly and wordlessly sets up the killer's motive and concludes with an outrageous image: The camera pans to an eerie closeup of somebody's face that looks strangely asleep until, through half open lips, a cockroach emerges from the mouth. Once in the high-rise, it's George Koblasa's lensing and David Lloyd's editing, not dialogue by Walton and co-writer Steve Feke, that propel the story. The killer, brandishing his weapons of choice, a baseball bat and a dagger, is mirrored in quick, crazed flashes through the eyes of Quinlan. Adding to the suspense is a major third character, an industrial spy (nicely played by Bruce Abbott) who, inadvertently caught in the killer's web, teams up with Quinlan in a cat-and-mouse run for their lives.

The quiet sound track, the vengeful, wordless madman (Ben Loggins), and even the building itself (the show was shot in Dallas) coalesce into a jumpy catharsis. True film noir buffs, by the way, will be deliciously reminded of the then-controversial 1947 Robert Montgomery MGM chiller, "Lady in the Lake" (with Audrey Totter and Jayne Meadows), whose entire story was subjectively seen through the eyes of Montgomery's Philip Marlowe.

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