Review Date: NOvember 30, 2000
Released by: Synapse
Release date: 10/31/2000
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Evil Dead Trap is the Japanese take on slashers, but there's a supernatural element involved as well. Does it work? Now we have a chance to find out thanks to the fine folks over at Synapse who have released it onto DVD. Lets take a look.
Nami (Miyuki Ono) is the host of a late night TV show, appropriately titled "Late Night with Nami". She's been requesting that viewers send in video tapes, most of which disappoint her content wise. One night she receives a package labeled "For Nami and those who can't sleep". She plays the tape, which is footage of a young woman in chains dressed in shredded clothes. Immediately she thinks "not another one of these" - she's received many tapes like this, most of which are just sexual acts being staged for video. But after watching the tape a bit more Nami quickly realizes this tape is not just another one of those. The woman in chains is murdered - her skin is slashed up and her eyeball is cut open, all on tape.
Most of her co-workers dismiss the tape as a fraud, but Nami believes it is real. The beginning of the tape has footage of someone driving to the location where the murder takes place. Nami decides to travel to that area with her some of her behind-the-scenes personnel - sound engineer Masako Abe, makeup girl Rei Sugiura, scripter Rya Kawamura, and assistant director Kondou Akio. They arrive at a gated entrance, the same one in the video, open it and make their way in. Most of the group splits up to investigate the area. Meanwhile a creature of some sorts is running around in the background, which we see through an point of view that is VERY similar to the "evil cam" in The Evil Dead.
While exploring Nami bumps into a stranger who claims to be looking for his brother. He warns Nami to be careful, telling her this place isn't a playground. The search moves into a nearby warehouse that is seen in the video, where members of the group begin falling victim to a psychotic killer lurking about and his variety of booby traps. The results are some very gruesome and graphic deaths. Nami manages to escape in an underground tunnel with the stranger she met earlier, but when the stranger turns back to find his brother, Nami decides she must go back as well. Not only to find who's left, but to find out who or what is responsible for the deaths. She'll discover the shocking truth, but can she survive it?
I can't say I'm a big fan of Asian horror, but I must admit to really enjoying Evil Dead Trap. Yes, it definitely borrows ideas from numerous horror movies. Just look at the name, the camera work of that creature lurking in the background, and the Argento look, feel and sound. Homage or theft? I don't know for sure, but the result ends up being the Japanese take on a slasher flick. There's no explanation to the killer's motives - no parent to avenge, no death to avenge - just a disturbed person that likes killing people. I really like the use of booby traps to kill some of the victims. They were implemented nicely and definitely worked in the film. Also, the use of a camera flash during a particular death scene has a very nice style to it which gives the illusion of slow motion kill. I liked all of the death scenes, which ended up quite graphic, something many fans are going to enjoy. Many reviews claim to dislike the ending, but that is also something I enjoyed. I won't discuss it too much as I don't want to spoil anything, but it's a definite surprise.
I think part of the reason I liked it is that it's so different than the American slashers we're all sick of. I'd have to recommend most horror fans see this one. Gore fans will no doubt love it. As for everyone else, well, if you can get beyond the concepts it borrows from other movies, I think you'll end up enjoying it too. Personally I feel this one shouldn't be missed by any horror fans.
Synapse presents Evil Dead Trap in an non-anamorphic widescreen transfer in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is decent overall and from what I've read, is lightyears better than past releases on video. There's light grain present throughout most of the film, but given it was a low budget picture shot on 16mm that's somewhat unavoidable. Colors are slightly faded, also the result of low budget 16mm. The image is sharp and there's hardly any print blemishes that appear. My only complaint is why not 16x9 enhancement? Sigh... With Synapse you generally expect to get the best possible result and, except for the lack of 16x9 enhancement, that's exactly the case with Evil Dead Trap. I'm giving it a B for Image Quality.
Evil Dead Trap is presented in its original Japanese mono track with optional English subtitles. Everything can be heard clearly without any distortion. Subtitles are nice, clear and easy to read. The score, sounding much like the Goblin music from so many Argento movies, isn't quite as powerful as it could be but you can't expect all too much with mono sound. I read one review that claimed the score was actually from an old Goblin soundtrack, but I haven't been able to confirm that anywhere. It definitely sounds like Goblin, but that doesn't mean it is.
Synapse included a commentary track with director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects director Shinichi Wakasa. Unfortunately these two don't speak English very well and a result the commentary track really suffers. There's many gaps of silence, some lasting as long as several minutes. When the two do speak they generally don't give any useful information. Some of the more humorous comments are:
* "Look, she's getting coffee".
* "Look, the locker is yellow".
* Toshiharu: "This love scene is really nice". Shinichi's response: (stalker voice) "YEAH...NICE".
* Toshiharu: (insert nearly any comment here). Shinichi's response: "Oh, okay, I see".
Alright...enough poking fun. I should point out that there are a few useful nuggets of information that can be mined out of this commentary if you have the patience to deal with it. A few examples are: the budget for the film was $500,000 US dollars, adult film stars were cast so they could do nude love scenes, and the film was shot in 16mm (though that's a bit obvious). But I have to tell you, watching the movie once and then over again to listen to the commentary for this review was quite difficult. Like I said, I do like this movie very much, but during a commentary you generally expect COMMENTS. It's a pain to sit there waiting and waiting for comments that hardly ever come. Not to mention that you really have to concentrate to understand them and then, on top of that, try to dig out the few useful comments. There's so many scenes where'd you expect them to have lots to talk about, but instead you're stuck listening to silence. I think it would've been better to have them comment in Japanese and then have someone translate it to either English dialogue or subtitles. Perhaps not a justifiable extra expense, however. The only other extra is the theatrical trailer.
Audio/video quality is quite good overall. Supplements consist of a poor commentary track and a theatrical trailer. As for the movie itself: A must see for any horror fan in my opinion. It's a good movie that I think most will enjoy. Definitely checkout this Synapse DVD.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - C-
- Running Time - 1 hour 42 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Japanese Mono sound w/optional English subtitles
- Audio commentary with Director Toshiharu Ikeda and SPFX Manager Shinichi Wakasa
- Theatrical Trailer