Monday, October 26, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Die-hard fans of Asian horror have to know about this one. Unless you count decades of monster movies, word has it that Shiryo No Wana (renamed Evil Dead Trap internationally) put Japanese horror on the map well before Ringu, Battle Royale, and eight million weird-ass Takashi Miike films. If you’ve seen a lot of horror movies in your time, this one won’t strike you as being particularly original. Evil Dead Trap mostly pays homage to Dario Argento, but there’s the occasional nod to Lucio Fulci and David Cronenberg too. At least the filmmakers had good taste, right? Nami hosts a late-night TV show that plays videos sent in by its insomnia-ridden viewers. After asking for better submissions, a tape shows up in the mail that’s more than what she bargained for. I know the Japanese sometimes get into some odd shit regarding sex and violence, but surely this video wouldn’t be allowed to air. It’s a snuff film depicting the brutal torture and murder of a young woman. And the son of a bitch who killed her even made sure his camera caught every landmark leading to the building where the girl’s death took place. Whether the video is real or not, Nami sees an opportunity to boost her show’s dwindling ratings. She convinces her boss to let her track down the video’s source in the name of investigative journalism. And hey, if she dies in the process, that’ll just make for a higher rating. That’s not me being morbid; Nami makes that observation on her own, thank you very much. With her film crew (three women, one man) in tow, Nami follows the video’s directions and ends up at an abandoned military base. They split up to look for clues…and one by one…yeah, you know what’s gonna happen. Each of Nami’s friends fall victim to an elaborate series of “evil dead traps” that kill them in gruesome fashion. I should probably stop there. Like The Descent, this is one of those movies where you’ll like it more if you know less about the story. What I can tell you is that the first half of Evil Dead Trap is a fine rendition of Italian horror aesthetics, complete with colored lighting a la Suspiria. But then the film crew dies, and so does the movie to an extent. The pace slows considerably, running about ten minutes too long. It does pick up with the bizarre turn of the final twenty minutes. But by that point, you’re almost ready to pack it in. The finale is great, but rendered less effective. Evil Dead Trap isn’t bad overall, but it’s recommended more for the sake of context. You should always make a point to check out the “granddaddy of ‘em all” movies to see where everyone got their ideas from. With this one, I think you might pick up on how future Japanese horror films improved on the craft.

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