Evil Dead Trap

Evil Dead Trap

I had first encountered Toshiharu Ikeda's 'Evil Dead Trap' a couple of years back when it appeared as the debut release for the folk at Japan Shock over in mainland Europe, so when Artsmagic's Eastern Cult Cinema announced that this was to get its UK debut I was looking forward to the opportunity to revisit it once again…

As the film opens we meet 'Late Late Show' TV host Nami as she sits down to watch yet another bizarre viewer submission, but this tape is not your usual You've Been Framed/Caught On Camera fodder - as the images unfold Nami soon is shocked to see what looks very much like a real life snuff movie of a young girl being violently mutilated. Understandably unnerved but instinctively curious she persuades her production team to assist her in tracking the location of this horrific footage down. This is to prove an all too easy task too as the killer kindly filmed the journey to the carnage destination…but soon after arriving at the eerie abandoned location they realise that their desire to find it may not have been the best decision.

Watching 'Evil Dead Trap' again after all this time reminded me of one simple fact - it is a fantastic film. Why? Well it could be the simple but highly effective script by Takashi Ishii, perhaps Ikeda's sumptuous stylish direction or even the gloriously violent death set pieces…but most likely the most undeniably strong attraction to this film is that it is the most impressive Argentoesque film that Dario never made! Yes, from the opening snuff video scene right up to the fantastic delusional finale this film has Argento's influence seething from its pores. And interestingly when 'Evil Dead Trap' first exploded onto the horror fan market via DVD it came at a time when the interest in Argento was waning as fans had suffered one too many disappointments (well Non Ho Sonno was still to arrive) from the Italian master and along came Ikeda to remind fans what true genre atmosphere and style was all about. Of course some may say I'm being somewhat unfair leaning heavily on the Argento comparison and not praising Ikeda as an innovator but this film is so undeniably in Argento's style (even Ikeda admits so) that if it had been made by Dario then it would be acclaimed as one of his best, and not just as an interesting curio from the Japanese genre scene (which is an unjust shame). Quite simply one of the best genre films to come out of Japan and without doubt the one that kick started the modern revival interest in Japanese horror in the West.

Now how about this UK debut on DVD from Eastern Cult Cinema? Well, with one minor reservation it is a commendable one…but no doubt the one factor that the hard core horror fan will be perturbed by is the fact that the scurrilous pests the British Board of Film 'Censors' wanted to make their mark here by demanding a few brief frames be cut from the film. Having watched this new UK release there is something that I find completely bewildering…you see the trimming of the now missing frames is completely unnecessary as they are brief shots of a blade piercing skin during the opening snuff video scene - the same scene where we see in close up an eye being pierced open by the same blade from several angles…skin cutting bad, eye piercing good - go figure? Now add to that they left fully intact a lengthy graphic violent rape scene later in the movie, as well as the rest of the gory violent set pieces you really have to wonder what the hell the idiots at the BBFC are up to? Me, I think they were simply up to their usual bullish tactics of making their presence felt to Eastern Cult Cinema (and to a point the films many fans) by deciding on insisting on a cut of some form being made. Was the cut necessary? No, case being that going by their own guidelines the frames cut contained no sexual violence or anything else they could possible try grasp at as justifiable reasoning - yet another spineless pointless move by the BBFC and likewise more fuel to the fact that we need these patronising out of touch cronies disbanded. Of course the cuts are minor and Artsmagic have done a nice enough job replacing the frames carefully with other shots so the unfamiliar viewer wont notice anything untoward and will still be astonished by the stylised brutality that unfolds onscreen.

Artsmagic bring 'Evil Dead Trap' to the UK in anamorphic widescreen with new optional English subtitles. It's great to see this gem anamorphic being used to Japan Shock's letterboxed print though it does highlight the fact that it looks to be a straight NTSC to PAL mastering for the transfer with some visible grain - not that it's a big problem (as the image is colorful and stable throughout) but a new PAL mastering direct from the negative would have been very welcome. The subtitles are clear and concise offering a slightly variant dialogue from the earlier Japan Shock release. The two channel stereo audio is good throughout also and though mixed quite low it still does fine with the impressive stand out pseudo Italian score.

The extras whilst on paper are pretty cool end up slightly disappointing…there's some decent enough text pages on the director and key cast (the article on Ikeda being the one of most interest), there's a brief stills gallery of images from the movie and a selection of Artsmagic cover images and three trailers from their Eastern Cult Cinema line - Evil Dead Trap, Junk and Uzumaki…three great titles that are well worth your attention but the trailers here are somewhat lacking with a dark image and visibly poor mastering. Hopefully something Artsmagic will pick up on (i.e. the delivery of the package as a whole) for future releases.

That said, it's still early days for Eastern Cult Cinema and I'm impressed by their forthcoming catalogue alone so will be watching with great interest. As for 'Evil Dead Trap'…well if you have never seen it before then you really should make a point to seek it out immediately, if like me you haven't seen it in some time then it's time to revisit one of the modern Japanese horror classics. Brilliant!

Review by Alan Simpson

'Evil Dead Trap' can be ordered direct from Eastern Cult Cinema by clicking here.

Released by Eastern Cult Cinema/Artsmagic
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Audio - Japanese with optional English subtitles
Extras :
Trailers, Stills gallery, Text pages.