Sunday, September 7, 2008
Evil Dead Trap AKA Shiryo no Wana (1988)
Evil Dead Trap is the type of movie I like to refer to as a “fear is a place” story. A group of people arrive wherever and whoever or whatever starts killing them off one by one. He/she/it uses the unfamiliar surroundings to gain advantage over the victims. Evil Dead Trap is one of these, but a Japanese horror movie, made decades before the movies about lady ghosts with long black hair had tarnished that country’s reputation as a top producer of horror movies for the international market.
The movie starts with Nami, a hostess for a TV talk show where viewers send in their home videos. She receives a video tape (sound familiar?) from an anonymous source. The video opens with intermittent footage taken from inside a car showing directions to a warehouse. Inside the warehouse, the killer/video-taper films himself murdering a young woman. Seeing an opportunity to jumpstart her journalism career, Nami and a camera crew follow the video’s directions and go looking for a story inside the warehouse. The big spooky building is full of booby traps, and they are stalked by a killer. It was a trap. An evil dead trap.
The manic, rock n’ roll filmmaking style obviously, makes it like Evil Dead but much darker. And of course, to stay true to the title, there are also traps. But the moody tone reminded me more of the supernatural thrillers from the 1980s such as Prince of Darkness, and with influences from atmospheric slasher films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Hellraiser.
The footage is interspersed with grotesque images and ominous music. The moments of humor in the script are all too brief, despite the occasional bursts of kinetic energy characteristic of Asian genre films. There is a gloomy feeling as if all the daylight scenes were filmed on a brisk October afternoon. It really does follow the formulated plot of the 1980s slasher film, but one has to keep in mind that for Japan in 1988, this probably wasn’t considered a completely worn out cliché.
It slows down a bit in the second act, but the climax is a real gore-fest. People get impaled with spikes, shot with arrows, and there’s even some slimy creature action. I consider Evil Dead Trap to be a perfect example of several modern styles of horror film-making all rolled into one. It is essential viewing for serious fans, even though you might not see it for sale at the local Blockbuster or Best Buy. It really doesn’t get much better than this, and if it weren’t for the fact it was a foreign language film, Evil Dead Trap would have a strong mainstream following in US. It was followed by two sequels that have little to do with the plot of the first one.
Evil Dead Trap is readily available on DVD from Synapse Films in Japanese with English subtitles.