Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Evil Dead Trap
This Japanese thriller (which has no connection to Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD trilogy) boasts intriguing visuals and plenty of enthusiastically applied bloodshed. Thanks to wide exposure on the grey market, it has developed a fairly substantial cult following on this side of the pond and can now be purchased on DVD in a good quality, licensed edition. Late night TV show hostess Nami (Miyuki Ono) receives a videotape that shows the gruesome torture and dismemberment of a bound female victim. The tape also includes a detailed look at how to get to the location where the killing supposedly took place, so the repulsed but inquisitive woman decides to investigate, in the hopes that a morbid expose might help to combat her program's increasingly fluffy reputation. Accompanied by female co-workers Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi), Rya (Aya Katsuragi), Masako (Eriko Nakagawa), and male assistant director Kondou, Nami heads out to the remote spot, a filthy, abandoned factory complex in an equally unkempt area. A killer in a hooded raincoat begins to stalk the TV crew, dispatching them one by one with ingeniously sadistic traps, until the lone survivor is left to rely on a mysterious stranger (Yuji Homma) who knows more about the murderer and the place's dark secret than he is letting on.
Miyuki Ono. Image courtesy Synapse.
Those hoping for eerie, innovative Japanese genre thrills along the lines of THE RING, THE RING 2, and SWEET HOME may be disappointed to discover that EVIL DEAD TRAP is essentially a local homage to 1980s Italian horror, with visual references to Dario Argento's gialli and some Lucio Fulci-style mayhem (a graphic eyeball puncturing, a la ZOMBIE, and "loud" maggots), not to mention an electronic score reminiscent of Goblin. There are also a few American horror perennials (accelerated low-level tracking shots, sex before death, dumb characters doing dumb things, etc) and even a nod to the Canadian bodily horrors of David Cronenberg. (A key plot element from a certain early 80s New York City horror thriller also figures prominently in the final act). The dearth of originality is not so much an obstacle as the fact that director Toshiharu Ikeda never knows when to quit: the second half is needlessly protracted and downright repetitious, delivering about three climaxes too many. On a more favorable note, there are a couple of effective jolts, a very palpable ambience, admirable location work, wonderfully squalid art direction, and some memorably gruesome killings (in particular, a spectacularly gory multiple impalement). In ambition and execution, EVIL DEAD TRAP definitely exceeds the majority of comparable Western productions, but its reputation as a high water mark in the annals of Japanese horror seems undeserved.