3 and a half stars   
directed by: Toshiharu Ikeda
starring: Miyuki Ono, Aya Katsuragi, Hitomi Kobayashi, Eriko Nakagawa, Yuji Honma,Shinsuke Shimada, Mari Shimizu


slash with panache?

[review by Psycho Camper]

Asian horror films have a great rep as of late what with the unexpected success of the American RING remake. Funny though, I wonder how mainstream audiences would react to this piece of bitter candy, the wonderfully titled EVIL DEAD TRAP. It doesn’t have any rampaging spirits or a chainsaw-wielding Bruce Campbell, but this little puppy is sure to get under your skin and stay with you for days.

Eye spy!

Nami is the hostess of a late-night TV program called, appropriately enough, “Late Night With Nami.” She makes a living showing weird home movies sent to her by her fans. One day, Nami finds a strange package waiting for her on her desk titled, “For Nami, and those who can’t sleep.” It contains a video featuring a woman bound and gagged in a deserted-looking warehouse. At first Nami thinks it’s just another one of “those” tapes, sent to her by obnoxious kids playing practical jokes. But soon her expression turns to horror when the woman is stripped, slashed, and has her eye gouged out violently with a knife (in an image that can only be described as nightmarish).

Despite the protests of her boss, Nami thinks it would be a great publicity stunt to get a bunch of her crew together and find the abandoned building where the video was shot. Luckily for her, the beginning of the tape featured the (unseen) killer driving to the scene of the crime, and she and her small band of crewmembers manage to find the desolate-looking location. Naturally, Nami’s “crew” mainly consists of bouncy, giggly women who squeal at the first sign of danger and split up at the most inopportune times to do things like have sex.

The road to hell!

Meanwhile, Nami goes off by herself where she’s surprised by a man who says he’s looking for someone, before warning her that “this isn’t a playground!” The place itself turns out to be an abandoned military base, with seemingly endless blue-tinged hallways and a dreamlike fog hanging over it constantly. And it’s safe to say that the killer from the videotape is still lurking there: a huge, Bowie knife-wielding bogeyman in a black rain slicker. It’s also safe to say that Nami and her friends aren’t going to be leaving so soon, as one by one, or in small groups, they’re stalked and killed off by the killer and his clever booby traps – or evil dead traps, I guess you could say.

To cut a long story short, Nami is the only one left alive and finds herself reunited with the mysterious man from the beginning. Together, the two must escape the cavernous army base and make it back to civilization – though, as you’d probably expect, not everything is what it seems.

The investigators get more than they bargained for!

EVIL DEAD TRAP is a neat little movie. It’s certainly a lot more unique when compared to other slasher movies of the time (no wise cracking Freddy Krueger here!). The entire film bathes in an almost unbearable sense of dread, especially during it’s first half, when it feels like almost anything can happen at any time. It’s also one hell of a stylish film, with gorgeous photography and set pieces that would make Argento proud. The director manages to use even the most mundane things, like the flash of a camera bulb, to great effect, as well as occurring imagery like animals and dark vs. light. It’s one great looking film, that’s for sure, and reminds you just how banal most North American horror films have been lately.

Unfortunately, the movie’s odd structure is something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it works to the film’s advantage in the sense that the viewer is always on edge – never quite sure what lurks just around the corner. Unfortunately, the movie throws in lots of little quirks that just aren’t needed. For example, there’s a whole subplot involving the killer’s rapist/murdering sidekick that goes nowhere and seems to have no point other than to up the body count.

Things go very pear shaped!

The film also lacks the power and energy of, say, STAGEFRIGHT (1987) – a film that this shares more than a few passing similarities with. Because most of the incidental characters are wiped out during the first half-hour, that leaves the remaining hour and ten minutes with very little left to do. The film certainly never drags, and is never boring, but I did feel like it lost some of its edge an hour into it.

And then, of course, there’s the ending. You’ll either love it or hate it. Naturally, I’m of the former. I love it when movies push their boundaries to the extremes, and let’s just say that EVIL DEAD TRAP veers off into some really wild territory – territory usually not associated with the humble slasher. On the flip side of the knife, I can see why someone would feel letdown by this oddball cap-off. The killer’s identity isn’t a surprise but a rather unsettling (and unexpected) plot twist during the final ten minutes seems to come out of nowhere and is never really explained. Then again, that’s what makes it so damn unsettling!

It’s ironic, I guess, that I’m criticizing a slasher movie for being different. Usually the main criticism that befalls most of these movies is their lack of any originality or depth. EVIL DEAD TRAP is certainly lacking in the latter (which makes it all the more fun, of course!) but its got enough of the former to make for a great evening’s worth of entertainment. See it.


BODYCOUNT 7   bodycount!   female:4 / male:3

       1) Female slashed to death and has eye gouged out
       2) Female run through with spikes
       3) Male shot through back of head with arrow (tip exiting through mouth!)
       4) Female garroted
       5) Male found decapitated
       6) Female sliced in side of head with machete
       7) Male shot dead