Evil Dead Trap (Shiryô no wana) (1988)

Toshiharu Ikeda's Japanese slasher.
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Evil Dead Trap - Toshiharu Ikeda's Japanese Slasher

Considering Evil Dead Trap (Shiryo no wana) was made in 1988 is still kicks the ass of many of the recent cookie-cut J-Horrors. Rather than being a supernatural tale steeped in folklore and overrun by long haired apparitions (as we have come to expect from Japanese horror), Evil Dead Trap is more reminiscent of non-Asian horrors of the era such as the works of Henenlotter, Argento and Fulci with regards to the flow of the story, the gore and the idiosyncratic characters involved. This can be expected as the eighties was before the Japanese had carved a niche in the commercial horror market for their unique brand of horror movies, although undeniably the horror movie industry in Japan was beginning to get noticed on these shores with their boundary-breaking horror as this was the decade that spawned the first Guinea Pig films and unleashed them on the world.

Nami Tsuchiya host a late night TV show imaginatively titled "Late Night with Nami", the show for those who cannot sleep. Possibly due to an influx of Tamazepam into Japan the show has falling ratings, Nami encourages the audience to send in home videos hoping to raise the shows declining reputation to new heights with pensioners falling over at weddings, cute animals being asinine and parents laughing at their toddler's eating demeanour. Unfortunately for the show the best video sent in is of the eye-gouging and murder of a naked woman in a warehouse. The Nami show reinvents itself once again and becomes an investigative report show as she and her crew cunningly find the warehouse (using the well known analytical technique of "watching the video") where the snuff movie was made.

Soon upon entering the forsaken warehouse, the crew encounter a mysterious stranger who claims to be looking for someone. Soon after the mystery man departs the ill-prepared explorers become separated and victims of various intricate traps all of which intend to savagely kill those who trip them. Back in the TV van is no refuge either as the current warehouse owner employs murderous misfit-rapists. Before long the only surviving member is Nami and the conveniently rematerialized stranger.

Nami begins to believe that the ease of finding the warehouse was nothing to do with her superior skills of deduction but the home-snuff-video was in fact... a trap! With a typical final-girl dose of inspiration, Nami decides to hunt down her Nami-obsessed tormentor but is surprised to find that her newfound admirer is not the kind of man that she'd secretly hoped for.

Evil Dead Trap is a bit disjointed in the story department and is almost three types of horror movie in one. It begins as a bit of an exploitation flick as the TV crew investigate the snuff movie sent into the TV station, it then almost becomes a slasher as one by one the camera crew succumb to the evil death traps in the abandoned warehouse and then. Finally the movie takes a creature-feature turn as the antagonist's true identity is revealed and Nami has to fight the abomination of nature.

The traps are imaginative and brutal in their execution and the gore effects are convincing with a special mention going to the chair impalement (even if it seems that the poor victim is holding a spike under her arm). The fiend in the finale is not so convincing but is kept out of sight enough to not look ridiculous and considering when the movie was made the ending is quite an adventurous scene to attempt to create. Evil Dead Trap caused a fair amount of controversy in its prime, which is always good for promoting a horror as the existence of Evil Dead Trap 2 proves.
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