Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shiryô no wana (1988)

... aka: Dead Soul Trap
... aka: Evil Dead Trap
... aka: Evil's Dead Trap
... aka: Tokyo Snuff

Directed by:
Toshiharu Ikeda

Nami (Miyuki Ono), who hosts a late night TV program where she shows viewer-submitted homemade videos, is going through her mail when she comes across something shocking. A viewer has sent her what appears to be a genuine snuff tape. In it, a tied-up woman is sliced up with a knife and has her eyeball gouged out. It eerily ends with an image of Nami. Nami goes to her producer, who thinks the video is just an elaborate sick prank and airing it would "encourage sick behavior." Still, Nami suggests he allow her and some of her co-workers to go to the location depicted in the video - an abandoned factory - to investigate. She gets a half-hearted approval and takes along three of her female colleagues; Masako (Aya Katsuragi), Rya (Eriko Nakagawa) and Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi), and one guy, Kondô (Masahiko Abe), as their "chaperone." When they arrive at the large, gated factory, they notice it's strangely not listed on their map. A vacant field should be there instead. And that's not even the strangest thing. The padlock on the gate hasn't been secured and all of the vegetation inside the fence appears to be dead or dying.

Once inside, they split up into groups to explore around. Nami bumps into a mysterious man (Yûji Honma) wearing sunglasses who tells her to be careful and to keep her guard up before he wanders off. The slutty Rei uses her opportunity there to have sex with Kondô. Afterward she discovers a corpse and is impaled by three large steel blades that emerge from the floor and wall. The whole place is full of lethal booby traps but that's not all they have to contend with. A masked killer is lurking the grounds as well as the killer's obedient slave, who likes to take his time raping and killing whoever he can get his hands on. The slave gets him hands on Rya and has his way with her before getting killed himself. When Rya tries to get away she's lassoed with a razor sharp wire around her neck and pulled over their jeep. Kondô doesn't make it much longer, as he's decapitated (off-screen) and Masako disappears. She'll later turn up in a death trap wired to a crossbow and a huge machete blade that our heroine accidentally sets off. All of Nami's friends are dead and there's still about an hour left to go. So how ridiculous do things get to stretch this one out? Pretty ridiculous.

Nami runs across the mysterious man yet again, who claims he's there searching for his missing brother, Hideki. The man (who is never named in the subtitles) has some serious heart problems and also a bad habit of coming and going without notice, leaving poor Nami terrified and alone. However, he is nice enough to help her find an underground tunnel to escape through. She makes it to the gate and... closes it and goes back in (!) because she feels responsible for all of her friends dying and wants to avenge them. Mmm hmm. So now here's your warning folks, if you don't want this movie spoiled then go ahead and skip down to the next paragraph. The big revelation here is that the mysterious man actually is the killer. Well, sort of. He's being controlled by his talking, giggling infant brother, who's been living inside of him and makes him kill. Once the man is mortally wounded, the baby decides to pop out, uses its umberlical cord to try to strangle Nami and exhibits supernatural powers by making everything explode.

First things first, this movie isn't a gore-fest despite having a reputation as being one. There are a few gruesome moments (especially the eyeball bit at the beginning) but not as many as one might imagine. Most of the bloodshed is relegated to the first half of the film. It's also made clear that the director is a huge fan of SUSPIRIA (1977). Not just because this is a super-stylish and colorfully-lit film, but also because certain moments are lifted wholesale from Suspiria, such as a scene of maggots dropping on a victim's head from the ceiling. And not just scenes are copied. So is Goblin's score, not to mention Goblin's score from ZOMBI 2 (1979). Whoever did the music for this one made about as many alterations to the original music he was copying as Vanilla Ice did with "Under Pressure" for "Ice Ice Baby." Evil Dead Trap also has a problem ending when it should. This has one of the most drawn-out finales ever. All that aside, this is still a notch above your usual slasher flick simply because it's a well made, really beautifully photographed film that offers up a few genuine surprises.

And just because this is derivative of several other well-known movies doesn't mean it wasn't influential in its own right. Clearly James Wan and his SAW franchise owe this film a huge debt of gratitute. This features a killer who uses multiple television sets to trick, taunt, trap or showcase his "work," includes several elaborate death traps and has a scene where a camera flash is used to see in the dark. The finale takes place in a tiled kitchen, which mirrors the tiled bathroom where much of Saw takes place, and when one of the victims pops up on a video monitor with their face painted white and red it can instantly be connected to the Jigsaw dummy. Not just that, but the "industrial" look and feel, the flashy editing, some clangy metallic noises and some of the camerawork were also copied. I was actually pretty startled by how much Saw ripped off from this movie. Of course, it won't ever be given credit for this, but it should.

Evil Dead Trap was one of the few 80s horror flicks from Japan to get a decent VHS release in the United States. Synapse now offer it on DVD and it's an excellent quality print. It was popular enough to spawn a sequel in 1992.



Paul Awful said...

I love this movie. I will never forget the first time I saw this. I took acid the night before and after the affects wore off I still had not slept. I popped this thing into the VHS player and was actually terrified. Of course this was due to being in a delerious state but either way it had a huge impact on me. Japanese Giallo!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Hopefully you didn't watch Tetsuo the same way! Have you seen the sequel? I was thinking about picking it up.

Paul Awful said...

No I don't make it a habit to take psychadellics and watch Japanese horror. I like Tetsuo a lot but I hate the sequell. The same goes for Evil Dead Trap 2. It has many great images but as a whole it does not live up to the first movie. I wouldn't say its not worth a watch but I don't know how much you are going to like it.

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