Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Starring Miyuki Ono, Aya Katsuragi, Hitomi Kobayashi

Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda

Some notes on VHS:

It’s soon to be a defunct format among the more sophisticated movie junkies (barring the occasional “must have” bootleg which itself is being devoured by VCD) and is slowly losing favor even for the average movie watcher/renter since DVD is so damn cheap.

Annoying aspects (aside from lower than DVD picture and sound quality) include the fact that your mom doesn’t know how to use the VCR so she makes you explain the logistics of recording over and over again, the tape melting in your car because you forgot to swing by the drop off box, watching as a fave flick gets eaten and then having to figure out whether you’re splicing or replacing and then, only after basing your decision on your mood, financial situation, and the sadistic whims of executives who decided to whip out the word “moratorium” again.

And then there are movies that focus on VHS in a more evil form. More evil than a dusty old copy of Pete’s Dragon in a honkin clamshell that simply won’t fit onto the Goddamn shelf with all the other dusty live action Disney movies that your kids don’t want to watch (they’re oooolllldddd Mom!). Most notably and recently with Ring, the VHS = evil portent is also used in Evil Dead Trap.

It all begins with Nami, a late night TV show host checking out a viewer-submitted videotape. That’s her show’s catch: viewers send in videos of interesting or just plain strange occurrences and she and her crew go on the road to check them out and subsequently broadcast their findings.

Nami’s latest viewer submission is by far the strangest and most disturbing entry she’s ever received. It’s a snuff film of the avante garde and ultra sadistic kind. Whoever made it decided to do two very specific things: He/she filmed the exact route to scene of the crime, and ended the tape with an image of Nami herself. How’s that for instilling curiosity?

Of course, being the intrepid reporter who’s worried about her ratings, she opts to investigate the scene. With no help from her higher ups, she and her crew, an entirely female group with the exception of a last minute male co-worker, head out to play detective. Now I mention it’s almost all women in this party because the video is of a women being grossly tortured and murdered, and whether I’m a feminist or not (which I’m not really, well, not in the “femi-nazi” sense that is) it’s pretty freakin’ stupid to venture out into the middle of nowhere to check out a quite possibly real site of eyeball violence and stabbing knife action. They’re Japanese yeah, but this isn’t that badass chick from Zeram and some of her sorority sisters, and honestly, their man-friend comes off as juuust a tad on the weak side.

To make matters worse, when they arrive, they find that the site is a HUGE building. So huge that they spilt up into groups of two, with Nami going it alone, to comb the place over. Smart move ladies, you deserve ALL that you get, and the gettin’s good folks. Thus begins a tale of the little VHS tape that could…get an entire TV show crew curious and dead through clever filming and authenticity.

Evil Dead Trap is a fun and well crafted movie, but its enjoyability (YES it is a word in my dictionary) is seriously damaged toward the end. Ah, the precious ending where so much is at stake when it comes to winning over the horror fan who’s seen so much ass-tacular celluloid that’s it’s tough to sell them on anything.

I’ve never seen anything else by director Toshiharu Ikeda so I cannot tell what his track record is, but the guy must be a SERIOUS Argento fan. The soundtrack, the storyline itself in some ways, the way the movie is shot; all these elements are reminiscent of Argento and the giallo genre. As previously mentioned, there is eyeball violence present in Evil Dead Trap and much more by way of cruel death that any giallo horror fan would appreciate it, from the manner of each victim’s death to the atmosphere created in each scene. There’s also a bit of Raimi injected in the film as well, with some crazy first person POV’s done in the same deadite fashion as (you guessed it!) Evil Dead!

Also present throughout the story and characters is a certain melancholy that adds to the mystery of just who hell is killing them and why…and why is Nami a focal point of the killer? The answers to these questions are revealed at the right moments throughout the film to keep you interested. But all good things must come to end unfortunately, and as Evil Dead Trap comes to its conclusion, it begins to get a little warped. The story thus far has been, basically, a slasher movie, but with Nami’s slow realization of what’s happened to her friends and what will happen to her, comes a twist in the madness.

In layman’s terms, they get all supernatural on you and it just. Doesn’t. Work.

There’s also a severe need of editing toward the end and you’ll most liekly be bored to tears because of it. There are some shots and scenes that are so long I began losing interest and seriously started to doze off. Evil Dead Trap also suffers from a kind of “Ha! You thought this was the end but it’s not! Here’s two more long ass scenes!” syndrome.

In a perfect Girlcreeture world, they would’ve snipped that fucker by at least 10 to 15 minutes, bringing it down to a much more watchable 90 minutes and just cut the supernatural BS by a mile or two. It’s a shame too, really. I thought this would be another smart and clever horror film, but it’s largely ruined in the “climax” because a whole lot of wackiness gets crammed into a space that has room for much better, and actually much simpler explanations.

On the technical side, the DVD presents a lovely transfer with honest to goodness quality, and I am in awe over the translation! The guys who translated the original dialogue for all us English speaking folk deserve HUGE kudos. They had pronouns and punctuation and verbs and proper sentence structure and, and, EVERYTHING! AND the subtitles were yellow! I’m getting all excited here because if you’ve ever sat through a VCD or cheaply translated Asian horror film, you know how difficult it is to decipher what the heck everyone’s saying (the Ring VCD I watched was abominable and made my eyes bleed).

So…the final verdict on Evil Dead Trap? I say watch it. The crappy ending aside, it’s a good entry in the horror genre that does deserve a viewing by those who haven’t seen it already.

La la la! Time for a quote!

“I’m sorry about last night. I guess it was because of the bourbon, it made me feel weird.”

“You were impotent, not weird.”

3 out of 5

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Jon Condit