October Horrorshow: Evil Dead Trap, aka Shiryô no wana

This year’s Horrorshow theme is Italian horror flicks, and by coincidence, today’s non-themed movie happens to be a Japanese film that does all it can to resemble an Italian horror flick…and just about every big-time horror flick one can think of. It’s a good thing it does it well.

From 1988 comes Evil Dead Trap, directed by Toshiharu Ikeda from a screenplay by Takashi Ishii, both of whom had made their bones in adult movies. The film follows television presenter Nami Tsuchiya (Miyuki Ono) and her small crew as they investigate the origins of a snuff video that was sent to their office. Clues in the video lead the group to what looks like an abandoned military facility. After digging into some clues on my own, specifically some faded signage, it looks like Ikeda and company filmed the movie at Camp Drake, a location once used by the United States Air Force’s 1956th Information Systems Group, out of Yokota Air Base west of Tokyo. How’s that for some Google-fu?

Ikeda, with the services of makeup effects artist Shinichi Wakasa and special effects tech Takashi Ito, let audiences know exactly what they were in for when Nami watches the snuff video early in the film. Flesh is sliced in closeup with a sharp blade, and an eyeball is pierced with its point, spilling out vitreous humor down the face of the poor victim. That’s just the start of the strong imagery viewers will encounter.

Why the TV crew decides to go to where a depraved killer is plying his trade without notifying the authorities, or bringing along security tougher than some guy from the mailroom named Kondo (Masahiko Abe), will be beyond viewers. But, without poor decisions there would be no horror films. To add insult to injury, these people are chasing Evil Dead Trap VHS boxdown a story for a lurid late night television show, but the only camera they bring is a 35mm for still photography. No betamax, no sound equipment, no broadcasting van. Whatever.

Soon, the killer, covered head to toe in dark green rain gear, begins carving his way through the group, beginning with the spectacular death of Rei, played by Hitomi Kobayashi, who would go on to be one of Japan’s most famous porn actresses.

Through the darkened rooms and hallways of the base the killer stalks the TV crew, plot be damned. Once the characters know they are in trouble, their main aim becomes simply to escape, but the killer makes sure that cannot happen. It all leads to a spectacular final twist whose details are impossible to see coming, and an ending that does not make sense. But, it’s all worth it.

According to the internet, so it must be true, Ikeda was not familiar with Italian horror, or western horror in general. For veteran horror fans, that will be hard to believe. The general tone of the film is indistinguishable from something Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci had been making, especially when it comes to the lackadaisical attention to detail in the plot. In addition, there are many, many shots in the film that are cribbed from movies such as John Carpenter’s Thing, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It was rare for the film to go ten minutes without some moment that felt like an homage to a notable horror film. As with all things on the internet, I don’t know who to trust.

Despite this, Evil Dead Trap is a very enjoyable romp into horror spectacle. There is enough blood and guts to satisfy gore hounds, and enough moments of filmmaking to pique the interest of snooty film fans. It’s a fine effort from a filmmaker who had spent the majority of his career previously helping to pump out cheap adult movies for the Japanese home video market. Flicks like that were pure commodity — all about moving units and nothing else. Rejoice, horror fans. It turns out that the auteur who had worked on such titles as Sex Hunter and Wet Weekend knew how to make a horror flick.

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