Evil Dead Trap Review
Prior to the success of Ringu and Audition, arguably the most famous Japanese horror film was Evil Dead Trap, filmed in 1988 by former adult film director Toshiharu Ikeda.
Nami (Miyuki Ono) hosts a late-night TV programme that broadcasts videotapes sent in by viewers. When she receives a literally eye-popping tape of a woman being tortured and killed, Nami sees it as an opportunity to prove her ability as an investigative journalist and so ventures with a group of her colleagues to an abandoned army base that she believes is the site of the murder. The group become separated as they explore the derelict building and each member meets a not entirely unexpected fate.
Director Toshiharu Ikeda claims to not enjoy horror films, which is surprising not only because he helmed Evil Dead Trap, but also because of the film's uncanny stylistic resemblance to the work of Italian horrormeisters Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, right down to the repetitive synthesizer score. This may have been due to the influence of self-confessed horror fan Takashi Ishii, who supplied the script and much advice to Toshiharu Ikeda before later going on to both write and direct such films as Gonin, Black Angel and Freezer.
For the majority of the film's runtime, Takashi Ishii's script offers few surprises as it closely follows the conventions of the slasher genre. However, due to Toshiharu Ikeda's skilful pacing, strong visual style, and some inventive death scenes, the film rises above the banality of lesser efforts, and eventually ascends to greater heights than slasher films generally aspire to in the final act, when the true killer is revealed in a manner worthy of David Cronenberg.
Evil Dead Trap may disappoint some for its lack of distinct Japanese character, but fans of traditional Western horror, and the Italian variety in particular, should find the film contains much to enjoy.
It should be noted that the BBFC insisted on 8 seconds of compulsory cuts before granting Evil Dead Trap an 18 certificate. According to the BBFC, cuts were required 'to two close shots of a knife cutting flesh in a sexualised context which are not acceptable under BBFC policy on sexualised violence'.
The ArtsMagic release of Evil Dead Trap is a single-layer DVD-5 encoded for Region 2 only.
The transfer is anamorphic and in the original aspect ratio, but unfortunately that is where the good news ends. The image is extremely fuzzy, and though black levels are strong, there is a complete lack of shadow detail. Low-level noise and edge-enhancement halos are also evident throughout much of the film. In short, the transfer looks as though it was mastered from an ex-rental VHS tape and then subjected to some misjudged digital enhancement.
The soundtrack is thin and reedy-sounding with very little dynamic range, though this is possibly an accurate reflection of the source materials.
The Biographies/Filmographies section contains text-based information about director Toshiharu Ikeda and cast members Miyuki Ono, Yuji Honma, Hitomi Kobayashi, Eriko Nakagawa and Aya Katsuragi.
The pointless Credits section is a single text page listing the names of the director, writer and five members of the cast.
Movie Stills contains twelve production stills displayed one per page and navigable using the controller's forward and back buttons.
The Artwork section contains cover images for various other ArtsMagic releases.
Finally, Previews contains trailers for Evil Dead Trap and other ArtsMagic releases Junk and Uzumaki.
Evil Dead Trap is a stylish contribution to the slasher genre with strong visuals, some inventive death scenes, and a superior final act. Despite its Asian origins, the film has much more in common with the work of Lucio Fulcio and Dario Argento than Takashi Miike and Hideo Nakata.
ArtsMagic's release of Evil Dead Trap is an extremely poor effort and cannot be recommended. A better option is the US release, which although non-anamorphic, is fully uncut and features an audio commentary from the director.