Unearthed Films: The Late Show After Hours: Evil Dead Trap (1988) - Reviewed

Image courtesy of Unearthed Films

Evil Dead Trap (1988) is an alluring mixture of Japanese and Italian style horror taking the best elements from both and combining them into a unique blend. The Japanese title Shiryƍ no wana or Trap of The Dead Spirits is more accurate to the theme of the film than the world salad localized title, though there are a few high-speed POV tracking shots that do call to mind Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1981).

The film starts out on a gruesome note as we follow late night cable TV host Nami (Miyuki Ono) as she reviews mailed in entries for the show. She pops in an unmarked VHS tape and is treated to a terrifying snuff film and watches helplessly as the featured woman gets her eye impaled graphically by a knife. The tape shows the outside of a derelict factory nearby, and Nami rounds up a group of her coworkers to go there and investigate. Once they arrive there, however, it becomes quickly apparent that the factory is home to a deranged killer, who then begins to murder the group one by one. Can Nami find out the identity of the killer and escape the factory unscathed?

Italian horror films seem to be the main inspiration for the aesthetic of Evil Dead Trap with a heavy dose of video tape elements thrown in for good measure. The factory itself can be seen as its own character with infinitely twisting hallways and a dream-like nonsensical floor plan that seems to travel further into Hell the farther the group goes within. Hallways are lit with an eerie blue glow and partially obscured by steam coming from rusty pipes and around every corner there are industrial horrors and traps awaiting unsuspecting victims.

In a nod to Suspiria (1977) and City of the Living Dead (1980) there is a scene with squirming maggots falling from the ceiling (Italian horror is fond of maggots for whatever reason). There is a lot of surreal and supernatural imagery and in particular a sequence with a woman tied up begging for help on a video displayed on a precarious stack of CRT televisions feels absolutely bone-chilling. The editing is slick and stylish almost veering into music video territory at times. Evil Dead Trap definitely has a mean streak running through it and the kills are incredibly unique and vicious. Shinichi Wakasa did the practical effects, which are fantastic (this film has one of the best eyeball pops I have ever seen) and afterwards he went on to work on kaiju models in the Godzilla Heisei-era films.

Tomohiko Kira's melodic synth-infused score is haunting and reminiscent of Goblin's work and whenever the main theme kicks in it adds immensely to the atmosphere.

Where the film falters a bit is in the third act. While I appreciate the sheer insanity of the reveals, the ending is drawn out too much and there are at least three points where the film could logically end but it doesn't. The visuals are amazing, however, with some really gnarly and goopy creature effects, but it drags out about fifteen minutes too long and kills the pacing. This is a small negative though, and overall the film is still extremely entertaining all the way through. Evil Dead Trap will definitely appeal to those who have a love for bizarre horror and a taste for gore.

Transfer/Sound: Evil Dead Trap was filmed on 35mm, and while this release is the best I have ever seen it look, the transfer is a bit soft. That being said, the color saturation is outstanding which highlights the fantastic lighting used in the movie. Both the surround and mono Japanese language tracks are available.


-Commentary with Director Toshiharu Ikeda and SFX Manager Shinichi Wakasa

-Commentary with Filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake

-Commentary with James Mudge of easternKicks

-Trappings of the Dead: Reflecting on a Japanese Cult Classic featuring Calum Waddell


-Behind the Scenes Stills

-Promotional Artwork


--Michelle Kisner