On a routine stakeout New Orleans cop Mike Turner (Robert Davi) loses a witness and his partner to Bishop, a murderous pony-tailed madman in black (Michael Ironside). Mike puts three bullets in the creep. But when police led by his superior, Captain Hodges (John Amos) arrive at the scene there is no body to be found. Thereafter Bishop repeatedly reappears to taunt Mike and stalk both murder witness Valerie (Lydia Denier) and his ex-wife Christine (Lesley-Anne Down). His seemingly supernatural powers suggest he is nothing less than the Devil himself.
For some reason the Nineties were peppered with high-concept thrillers where cops chase serial killers that turn out to be Satan. What began as straight-to-video schlock evolved via arty oddities like the Jeff Goldblum-starrer Mister Frost (1990) through to mainstream fare with Denzel Washington in the flawed but interesting Fallen (1998) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the glossy train-wreck that was End of Days (1999). X-Files creator Chris Carter squeezed a whole show from the premise with Millennium which earned a fan-base larger than any of these movies. With Night Trap straight-to-video action and horror specialist David A. Prior threw his hat into the satanic serial killer ring. Today Prior has some minor cult notoriety after various YouTube channels devoted to bad movie embraced his films Deadly Prey (1987) and Killer Workout (1987). Both of those star his actor brother Ted Prior. Night Trap however sees Prior work with a slightly higher calibre cast than usual. Including Robert Davi in a rare lead role and Margaret Avery, an Oscar nominee for The Colour Purple (1985), as a handy back-story explaining psychic.
Set in one of the most evocative locations in the United States the film benefits from some local colour (including the opening Mardi Gras parade showcasing some spectacular floats) but Prior's pedestrian staging robs it of any real atmosphere. For all Night Trap's supernatural trappings it remains a fairly standard serial killer thriller. While the script touches on ideas like ritual sacrifice and Avery delivers an intriguing speech linking Mardi Gras celebrations to ancient rites used to ward off evil we never get a satisfactory explanation as to why the Prince of Darkness has nothing better to do with his time than pester a burnt-out cop. Davi strikes all the familiar action hero poses and utters Prior's would-be hardboiled dialogue with a commendably straight face ("Move an inch and you’re wallpaper") but the film struggles to involve viewers in his daytime soap opera back-story. Though well shot and relatively well acted the film suffers defects common in Prior’s output: soporific pacing, dodgy sound recording and a cheesy synth score that makes the whole thing look much cheaper than it probably was. To its credit the third act contrives a fairly suspenseful dilemma as Davi's cop is forced to choose between saving one love interest from drowning or another from a ticking time bomb. However after going to such great lengths to establish Bishop’s absolute omnipotence Night Trap has a hard time delivering a convincing climax.