A.J.’s Big ’80s Horrorthon #24: “Evil Dead Trap” (1988)
by A.J. Hakari
I don’t know whether Evil Dead Trap is more notorious for its graphic content or for confusing the shit out of horror fans. Despite the title and a few Raimiesque camera swoops, this Japanese shocker hasn’t a thing to do with Deadites, and I’m cool with that. This movie has its hands full botching an intriguing premise and chucking in twist after moronic twist as is, without having to rip off a legit classic on top of it all. Evil Dead Trap exemplifies the dark side of crazy, wherein every randomized stab at titillation or emotional scarring is met with an increasingly embittered series of sighs.
Miyuki Ono plays Nami, a late-night cable host whose glamour is a few steps above anyone on RFD-TV. Part of her show involves asking viewers to send in their home movies, an offer one sicko takes her up on in the form a snuff video. Convinced the girl getting slashed and sliced on film is the real deal, Nami takes a van full of colleagues with her on a hunt for the tape’s origins. Their investigation takes them to an abandoned factory, where some souls unlucky enough to get chopped, speared, and axed by the various booby traps laying about learn that there is indeed a killer lurking around. But the terror isn’t over, as forgone final girl Nami hasn’t yet learned the disturbing truth behind why she was lured out to Jigsaw’s funhouse in the first place.
Some movies that aren’t anything more than excuses to transplant a director’s insane imagination to celluloid can leave you breathless. You watch 1977’s House, Mystics in Bali, or, hell, even Spookies and enthusiastically gush about their strangeness to your friends, dashing off a laundry list of reasons why you totally have to see this, you guys! But Evil Dead Trap is a rare breed, where you mull over every bizarre pit stop and get nothing out of it but a migraine and a wasted Netflix rental. The aim here is to start weird and get even more off-the-wall from there, but where Evil Dead Trap begins and where it ends don’t even belong in the same movie. I don’t know how director Toshiharu Ikeda expected to tie in a Saw precursor (elaborate traps, industrial setting, etc.) with what can only be called a teleporting pyrokinetic fetus, and with a plot this slim yet exhaustively complicated, I don’t think he did either.
My frustration with Evil Dead Trap extends beyond Ikeda’s escalating desperation in trying to keep his freak show afloat. I could dwell on the dispensable supporting players and how our empty-headed bint of a protagonist wouldn’t know danger if it shook her hand, but there’s only so much room on the interweb to spare. A gnarly darling of the Asia shock scene once upon a time, Evil Dead Trap has found its tired self supplanted by more clever flicks that know how to marry cuckoo visuals with some semblance of story and logic.