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Evil Dead Trap

Evil Dead Trap (Ikeda, 1988)

One of the pleasures of Evil Dead Trap is seeing a convergence of several lines of influence. There are the fingerprints of David Cronenberg, whose Videodrome is cited early in the movie. The heroine, who works for a late night investigative program that seeks out edgy, extreme content, receives a snuff video in the mail and decides to dig further. There are the great Italian horror directors. The colour schemes bring to mind Mario Bava and Dario Argento, with aggressive use of filters rendering much of the movie in monochrome, generating a certain frisson from applying such a bold visual style to such a grimy setting. And there's a scene of Fulcian eye trauma, which paired with the POV delivery we associate with classic giallo, knocked me on my ass like I haven't been in quite some time. There's a little Sam Raimi sprinkled throughout, with frantic camera moves providing a kinetic manifestation of the sinister atmosphere. And there is perhaps a bit more Cronenberg, although I wouldn't dare to reveal the specifics.

And one can perhaps see subsequent movies echoing certain attributes. In a featurette included on the Unearthed Films Blu-ray release, Calum Waddell suggests that the presence of a cursed object (the snuff tape here) might have influenced the use of the same trope in Ringu. Waddell also cites a rumour that Oliver Stone was a big fan of the movie, and when you see how this movie swerves between film formats and colours, one can speculate that Stone might have drawn a bit from here when creating the fever dream aesthetics of his '90s classics. And staging this level of brutality in this kind of isolated, decaying setting does bring to mind a similar juxtaposition in Hostel.

I bring all this up not to knock the movie for being derivative, but to suggest that for certain horror fans, this will be like a trip to the candy store, where you grab a little bit of everything and try to fit them in your giant trenchcoat Marge Simpson style and hope it doesn't explode from the pressure. (Okay, that was a candy convention. I apologize for pivoting my metaphor mid-sentence.) And the movie is quite well executed, with gruesome, creatively staged violence and a palpable atmosphere from its crumbling abandoned military base setting. There's a sense of real evil in the air, enhanced by the almost disembodied acts of violence perpetrated against our protagonists. I think the movie stumbles a bit when it includes a scene of sexual violence (which is ugly in ways that ultimately don't feel justified by the time the movie concludes), and some of the supposed adults behave like horny, idiotic teenagers from slashers, but the latter at least provides for some humour. (A choice line: "Don't worry, the sun's still up. Dracula won't be out until dark.")

Now, this did not occur to me during the movie, but in that featurette, Waddell offers an interesting political read of the movie, suggesting that it's a metaphor for dealing honestly with Japan's imperial past and the search for truth. In that sense, one scene proves especially potent. The heroine hides behind a car as the villain leaves with the corpses of two other characters. She sees a chance to escape and starts on that path, hesitates, goes back in the car. She retrieves a flashlight, steadies her nerves with a cold brew. And then she goes after the villain.