Evil Dead Trap
Japan / 1988
Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
Miyuki Ono
Yuji Honma
Aya Katsuragi
Color / 102 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Synapse Films
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    6   10 = Highest Rating  
Occasionally scary and literally bursting with gore, this Japanese shocker was obviously directed by a big fan of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. The results are highly derivative but stylishly helmed.
    TV presenter Nami (Miyuki Ono) is the host of a late night program that solicits and airs videos sent in by viewers. One day she receives a horrifying entry from an anonymous source a "snuff" tape that by all indications depicts the actual torture and murder of a young woman. Revolted, Nami is determined to discover who's behind the atrocity, whether real or faked. Before reaching its repulsive climax (including the nastiest ocular damage committed to film since the salad days of Lucio Fulci), the tape shows POV shots of a vehicle driving on a highway, finally arriving at a run-down factory-type building where the "murder" takes place. Nami believes she can locate the scene of the crime by following road signs glimpsed on the driving portions of the tape.
    Next afternoon, accompanied by members of her program's production staff three women and a man, all yuppie twentysomethings Nami sets out to locate the mysterious "factory". It proves relatively easy to find though the complex isn't marked on a road atlas. They discover that it's actually a deserted U.S. military base from the days of the Cold War, long abandoned and now overgrown with weeds. The four staffers split into pairs to begin a search of the place; headstrong Nami heads off on her own. As in any horror movie, this faux pas will invariably have fatal consequences.
    One by one Nami's coworkers are picked off by an exceedingly sadistic killer dressed in a dark rain slicker and camouflage mask, who stalks the environs of the deserted base like some ghostly apparition. But the murderer isn't the only one lurking there. Nami encounters a strange young man who seems friendly but is very cryptic when questioned; another man, apparently a prisoner held by Mr. Raincoat who's been driven insane by captivity and torture, attacks and rapes one of the female staffers before the killer finishes her off. Racked by guilt for leading her companions into a deadly trap, it's up to Nami to confront the murderer and learn his sinister secret. But can her psyche withstand the mind-bending truth?
    That truth, in the end, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Supernatural forces come into play during the climax, plot elements that left me just a tad perplexed. But no matter. Like his idol Argento, director Toshiharu Ikeda is inclined to favor intriguing visuals over coherent storytelling. At times it seems as if he's attempting to emulate Suspiria in tone and atmosphere; there's even a repetitive, Goblin-like score to punctuate the weirdness and mayhem. (Some of that mayhem, I should warn, can get rather brutal... and I'm not just referring to gore. The rape scene, while not explicit, goes on for quite some time and can make for awkward viewing in mixed company.) Evil Dead Trap's strong suits are its chilling set-pieces stylishly lensed and edited, flavored with kinetic, Raimi-esque camera movements and the competent performance of Ms. Ono, who's very good as Nami.
    With its creepy locale, flinch-inducing murder scenes and stylish aesthetics, fans of Italian gialli should particularly enjoy this Japanese 'stab' at Argento-like horror.

Evil Dead Trap comes to North American DVD courtesy of Synapse Films, which has also released some of Jess Franco's work (including Vampyros Lesbos), Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, and the Atomic Age "Red Scare" disc Invasion U.S.A., among others.
    The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen format, in the original Japanese with removable, easy-to-read English subtitles. (While European flicks don't suffer as much when dubbed into English, I think Asian films are best experienced in their native languages.) There are only a couple of minor blemishes evident on the source print; otherwise it's flawless. Grain is apparent in many of the scenes, but this is how the film is supposed to look its low budget origins necessitated it be shot in 16mm. Sound quality is very good.
    An audio commentary is included, featuring director Ikeda and special effects supervisor Shinichi Wakasa talking and joking about the movie. I question its worth. Both gentlemen speak in halting, heavily accented English; entire passages of their conversation are practically unintelligible. (I actually gave up before listening to it in its entirety.) The disc's only other extra is the spoiler-laden theatrical trailer. 10/03/01