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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/20/00

Evil Dead Trap
Asian Cult Cinema Collection - 1988 (2000) - Synapse Films

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Evil Dead Trap Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/B+

Specs and Features

105 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects creator Shinichi Wakasa), theatrical trailer, DVD credits, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0) and Japanese (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English

Cute and perky Nami is the host of The Late Late Show, an amalgam of America's Funniest Home Videos (or in this case Japan's) and stiff public access fare. Always on the hunt for that new and exciting home video, Nami is shocked to see a video come across her desk that features what looks like a real-life murder (and a horrifying bit of eye violence actually). Curious, she and her office staff follow the videotaped directions leading to a mysterious mill on the outskirts of town. And wouldn't you know it, the taped murder wasn't fake - it was the real deal. Now, everyone around Nami starts to drop like flies on grey velvet (hee-hee). And guess what? The above description pretty much covers the first 15 minutes. There's not much plot here, folks - just a bunch of slaying and some weird-ass plot development in the last 30 minutes. And when I say weird-ass, I mean WEIRD-ASS.

Evil Dead Trap is a freaky little film, and what makes it so freaky is all the nifty detail. Most of that is thanks to special effects maestro Shinichi Wakasa, whose most recent work can be seen in Godzilla 2000. There are some effects in this film that are just completely shocking. Another interesting aspect of this film, is the odd Sam Raimi-style camera set-ups, mixed with Dario Argento lighting, tone and pacing (even the music is a sort of strange Goblin-esque riff). If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Argento oversaw the production of this film himself. When watching this film, think Inferno mixed with Suspiria and a bit of the original Evil Dead tossed in for taste. That isn't saying it's a bad movie at all. If fact it's an entertaining homage to those films. If you're going to rip-off someone's work, it might as well be the best, right? In the end, you'll scratch your head trying to figure out what the hell you were watching, thanks to an odd twist. But it's a good head scratch. And for those of you who take the time to see this flick, there's a really cool pre-Matrix "bullet time" effect. It will seriously make you wonder how influential this film might have been (the release date for this film is 1988). We already know it's one of Oliver Stone's favorite films, so why not the Wachowski Brothers?

Synapse Films makes this the next entry in their Asian Cult Cinema series, and it's a worthy addition. Presented in 1.85:1, this is as good a transfer as you could expect from the Brain House. This transfer was done two years ago, and there are a few source issues, but a new transfer would have been even worse. The newest prints for this film have burned-in subtitles, so this is the newest generation print that was free and clear for proper DVD display. The film is grainy and it's supposed to be. But the color is bright and strong. Blacks are deep, for the most part, with some splotchyness popping up here and there due to the heavy film grain and the fact that this transfer was taken from a print and not a negative. Seriously though, the tone of the film suits any imperfections you might find in the source. The sound is a minimal Dolby Digital 2.0 with limited range. It'll actually fool you a few times into thinking it's a mono mix. And hey, it even fooled Synapse, who listed it as mono on the jacket (it wasn't until the track was cleaned up that they learned it was a stereo mix, albeit a small one). The track is serviceable and it's a nice, spooky environmental set-up that goes a long way in adding to the tone of the film.

The extras for Evil Dead Trap are worth picking the disc up for all by themselves. First (and it's not really an extra but it's worth mentioning), this is the first Synapse disc with animated menu screens. Right from the start, we're given a taste of what's in store. You cannot hide, so don't even try. Next, we get the original trailer, which is pretty beat up but at least it's here. The original Japanese studio didn't give Synapse the trailer, and Don had to find one from a collector, so this may be the best we'll see it. After that is the best extra, a commentary track that features the director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects creator Shinichi Wakasa as they discuss the film in god-awful English. Every stereotype you can think of is here. Half of it you won't understand at first. But, if you try like me, you'll eventually start to comprehend every word... and it's hilarious. It's not so much how they say stuff, but what they say. It's actually a nice example of culture shock. Ikeda and Wakasa discuss the silliness of American musicals and the psychology of serial killers. In the end, Ikeda even gets Wakasa to come on board a sequel through a nice bit of baiting. It's beautiful and you must hear it.

Fans of slasher films will have to own this disc. Japanese film lovers will too. As for everyone else, I'd say give it a try. It's a fun weekend flick to turn the lights off with, order a pizza and enjoy with your friends. Plus, the commentary track is definitely a must-hear. These guys don't know how funny they are. If I had the time, I'd transcribe the whole thing and put it up for the world to see. But until I do, check it out for yourselves.

Todd Doogan
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