Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
Evil Dead Trap is an intriguing curiosity that draws on a myriad of western influences, and unusually for a Japanese horror film makes no reference too indigenous traditions. The fact that the screenplay by Takashi Ishii could have been set anywhere gives the film a strange lack of cultural specificity which only goes to emphasise the artifice of the whole proposition. Ishii went on to much more interesting things as a writer and director, films such as the Takeshi Kitano starring Gonin (1995) and the unusual rape/revenge thriller Freeze Me (2000). The director Toshiharu Ikeda remains something of an obscurity in the west, Evil Dead Trap being the only film of his that had reasonable trans-national distribution. It is incredibly easy to see why it achieved this. The title itself is a reference to Sam Raimi’s irreverent gore soaked debut, and the film abounds with the echoes of other filmmakers and films. Perhaps the most notable influence here is the hyper-stylised baroque fantasies of Dario Argento. This imitation includes maggots falling from the ceiling onto an unsuspecting woman’s head, the use of red, green, and blue filters, and the irritating repetition of a central musical theme courtesy of Tomohiko Kira. Unfortunately shoddy prints have lessened the effect of Ikeda’s colour schemes, but despite the derivative nature of the film, Evil Dead Trap is still highly inventive, and perhaps more importantly for cult enthusiasts, incredibly gory.
Miyuki One plays Nami Tsuchiya the host of a late night reality TV show which deals in extreme material. The unmistakable spectre of David Cronenberg’s monstrous meditation on subversive media Videodrome (1983) inevitability rears it head when Nami receives a snuff video. The material within is quite ghastly, and shows a young woman being brutally tortured. One scene of ocular trauma is especially difficult to watch and makes Lucio Fulci’s seem tame in comparison. Naturally Nami heads out on the road to locate the place these events took place (remember we are in the dumb world of the slasher film here) and takes several people along with her, to enjoy the ride and die gruesomely. By looking out for landmarks on the video, the TV crew are able to locate the abandoned military base where the sick deed took place. The base is a relic of the cold war and is an excellent space in which to play out the cat and mouse antics of the plot. The location is suitably grim and desolate, ceilings and floors cave in, rust and decay adds to a sense of melancholic despair which is further compounded by the brief shots of a mysterious figure in camoflauge. Once there the quartet of morons decide it would be an excellent idea to split up…I don’t think I need to tell you what happens for the next forty minutes.
It almost goes without saying that developing plot and characterisation is not a major concern of the filmmakers. But Ikeda is particularly adept at composing impressive set pieces which never fail to surprise due to their creativity. When it comes to dealing in death there is no limit to the filmmakers abilities. But it should be noted that Evil Dead Trap is a vicious little film. If the incredibly realistic visual effects of Takashi Ito are not enough we also have an horrendously protracted rape scene to endure. Nevertheless for two thirds of the film Ikeda creates a tense atmosphere, the error comes with the incursion of the supernatural in the finale. By the standards of slasher psychopaths Masako Abe played by Aya Katsuragi must rate as one of the barmiest. He is a schizophrenic maniac who talks to a brother who isn’t there and has an obsession with his dead mother. The split personality angle is quite interesting, but the film goes too far when it decides to make literal what we are initially led to believe is a neurosis. Yes, Masako gives birth to his brother! The vile pulsating foetus is vaguely reminiscent of the ugly blob in Basket Case (1982), and the brothers relationship offers a further echo. There is a psychoanalytical layer to Evil Dead Trap, but like Argento it seems self-conscious and self-indulgent. Ultimately Ikeda’s bag of tricks become irritating - a kill sequence shot with the flash bulbs of a camera is nauseatingly stupid. Evil Dead Trap is deserving of its cult reputation, but dramatically at least, never recovers from the incredibly daft finale, and the need of the director to show off.