Running Time: 102 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR, but this puppy would get an NC-17
Format: Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region: 1
MSRP: $29.98

Own It!
Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Nami (Miyuki Ono) is the anchor for a late-night TV show who invites her viewers - "those who can't sleep" - to send her their home videos. She teases her audience with "they're not very good" until one tape gives her pause: it seems to meander, chronicling the journey to an abandoned Army base. Inside its desolate buildings, the unseen cameraman tortures and brutally murders a woman, recording every cut of the knife - and at the penultimate moment, Nami finds the woman's face replaced by her own.

When her producers declare the tape a fake, Nami launches her own investigation, taking four of her crew and retracing the route taken on the tape to "uncover some real news". As everyone should be able to predict, this is a Very Bad Idea. Someone - possibly, something - is at the base, waiting for Nami... and it considers the murder of the anonymous woman on the tape only a warm-up act.

Evil Dead Trap wears its influences on its sleeve rather proudly. For much of its running time, it feels like Argento in his prime, nasty-edged, gory and hypnotic. In its final twenty minutes, though, it veers into Cronenberg territory and loses much of its suspenseful momentum and unpredictability. This is one of those movies where the less you know about what's going to happen, the better, so I'm going to shut up now.

Synapse Films presents us with a beautiful transfer - pitch blacks, warm skin tones and good shadow detail, making the film look like it had a budget in the millions rather than the thousands. The sound, though mono, is crystal clear and effective.

The disc contains a theatrical trailer, and if you remember what I said about not knowing what's going to happen, you will save it for after the movie.

There is an audio commentary track by director Toshiharu Ikeda and his special effects supervisor. The track is conducted in English, which can be problematic. Oh, my hat is off to these gentlemen for going to this length for the Yank fans, and their English is fine, if severely inflected; but how much more of a comprehensive track could we have gotten if they had conversed more comfortably in their native tongue, with a translation playing over their words, as you often see in newscasts? As it is, the track is quite spotty, with the two falling silent for great spans of the movie.

Evil Dead Trap was extraordinarily popular in Japan, spawning at least two sequels. If you have a hankering for a superb Japanese gialli, it will fulfill at least three-quarters of that urge. Supposedly, Oliver Stone is a fan. If any or all of these facts appeal to you, this disc is worth at least a rental.

Dr. Freex, 5/22/2001