First, a little fear…
Evil Dead Trap (1988); Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
I suppose it goes without saying that Evil Dead Trap has no relation with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films or the more recent remake. That being said, this film quite obviously finds itself influenced by the films of Raimi, Fulci and Soavi; and while there are plenty of nods to these masters of horror cinema present here, it is quite obvious that none other than Dario Argento played the biggest part in influencing the feel, cinematography, pacing and even musical choices of Evil Dead Trap. Perhaps this is what I liked most about the film, being an avid fan of Argento’s works through the 70s, 80s and 90s. But while this film might feel most like a giallo in nature, I can assure you right now that it is all over the board of styles and winds up going off the rails altogether by the time the credits roll.
The events of this nightmarish, and more than a tiny bit confused film are set into motion when a graveyard-shift television hostess asks her red-eyed viewers to send in videotapes to be aired. Not happy with the mundane subjects and lack of real edge of the submissions she receives, she taunts her audience to do better if they want airtime. It soon becomes apparent that at least one fan has been paying attention and upped their game.
She receives a video tape from a viewer, cryptically addressed to her personally as well as to those who can’t sleep. On the tape our hostess Nami (Miyuki Ono of BLACK RAIN fame) discovers a fiendish murder, snuff movie style, and cryptically filmed directions to what must be the murder site. This first bit of death dealing features an ocular torment that is every bit as cringe-worthy as those from Zombi 2 and Splatter: Naked Blood. This eyeball-piercing is combined with a slow moving slice through the abdomen and is so fantastically reminiscent of Argento’s best kills in Opera or Suspiria.
Nami and her crew, using their best “horror movie inducing” judgment, set off to discover the location in the footage and unravel the mystery of their gruesome tape. Upon arrival at an abandoned, and utterly remote, military installation, the films mood shifts its tone slightly to that of a teen slasher from the 80s. As our crew shows off their powers of reason and decide to split up, I jokingly begin to wonder to myself when two of them will wander off and start having sex. Then two of them do, and the murdering mayhem ensues. At this point I am sure that Evil Dead Trap is going to become a stalking slasher flick, but it remains stylistically elusive.
The killings begin in a traditional enough way, but as we are introduced to the films antagonist the deadly antics shift to elaborately orchestrated attacks, which all seem designed to terrify our heroine and steer her in certain directions. An overwhelming sense of Italian giallo film begins to grow again; made all the more prevalent by the electronic score that could have been lifted from Goblin’s Suspiria soundtrack and the fact that our killer is often onscreen but unrecognizable in his military rain gear and mesh covering his face.
During all of this however, we are introduced to several constructed traps which begin picking off characters one by one. These traps range from clever mechanically triggered booby traps all the way to Saw-like constructions…something that was ahead of its time when Evil Dead Trap was filmed back in 1988. Once again this film proves that it doesn’t want to be limited to just one style or mood. And honestly, we haven’t seen anything yet.
Things begin to bog down significantly in the middle and we spend way too much time watching people wander aimlessly through this abandoned complex. Combine this with the fact that we aren’t sure if someone is after them or if they are meant simply to walk into more traps, and you find yourself getting just to the point of frustration before another great death.
The actors here do a wonderful job of dying. The characters emote terror and pain in a believable way that I haven’t seen in a long time. Whether this has anything to do with the fact that the supporting ladies of this film were all porn actresses or not is beside the point I suppose. Interestingly enough, the director Toshiharu Ikeda was the director of several of those films as well prior to this. Regardless, there is a fearlessness in both the acting and directing here and it helps sell the premise of Evil Dead Trap…a premise which is about to go full bonkers.
Strangulating, pipe impaling, rape, torture, neck snapping and head chopping gore lead us on a slippery path to the films climax…which is VERY surprising and seems to be cut from a different film altogether and stitched onto the headless torso of this one. I don’t want to spoil the “magic” of it and will only describe it as a bizarre mix of Alien, The Thing, and The Dark Half. Hell, go ahead and throw a little Bad Milo in there just to raise a few more eyebrows.
As I sat in a stunned silence and reflected over what I had just seen, I decided that this movie may very well have no idea what it wanted to be in total, but also that it didn’t matter one bit. Evil Dead Trap takes some of the best qualities and clichés from many great horror film styles, puts them through a meat grinder and spews out a deliciously disgusting piece of work! Whether a fan of giallo, slasher, gore, supernatural or any other form of horror…this is a must see. This film breathed some new life into Japanese horror cinema at the time, and should be respected for the sum of its parts…of which there are many!
Review edited from original appearance at Underland Online
…then a little beer!
AleSmith Brewing Evil Dead Red Ale (6.66% ABV) – San Diego, CA
AleSmith has been cranking out some seriously great brews since 1995, and in the two decades of their existence they have pulled in a pile of recognition and awards; earlier this year being named Best Brewery in California and Second Best Brewery in the World by RateBeer. You read that right…second in the WORLD. So naturally, with accolades such as those, you are going to expect an amazing product. You won’t be disappointed.
When choosing a beer to enjoy during my recent screening of Evil Dead Trap, the choice was almost too obvious. Evil Dead Red is touted by AleSmith themselves as “pairing excellently with…your favorite horror flick”, and who am I to argue with logic such as that. I also wanted to be sure to get a post up about this delicious ale because it is a seasonal release that hits shelves in September and is really only designed to be around during the Halloween season. I have found that it is available on shelves for a decent amount of time after; at least here in the Northwest.
Traditionally, when presented with the choice between an Irish Red or a more hop forward choice such as an India Red Ale or American Amber (such a tricky label that one is), I will always fall to the hoppier side. Evil Dead Red is much more of a traditional Irish style; malt forward, roast notes and caramels and drying out in the finish. But there is something about this beer…something so well balanced and intriguing…that it is among my favorite, if not my favorite, red ale.
Evil Dead Red pours more of a dark copper or mahogany and produces about a half inch of dense tan head which dissipates rather quickly. The aroma pops with caramel and citrus first, and then finishes with pine and a subtle earthiness. There is a sweetness in the back of it all, like candied fruit or caramelized sugar.
Mouthfeel is vibrant with a good carbonation but remains super smooth. There is no bite or distraction here at all, not from alcohol, hop or astringency of any kind. Instead your tongue is straight away on an adventure of flavor, starting with caramel malts and brown sugar. Next up is crackers and toast sharing space with grapefruit and light citrus. At this time my brain was screaming Sweet Tea in the best of ways as I imagined myself sipping a pint of Evil Dead Red on the patio in the Summer sun, but was brought back to focus with a piney and resinous hop character…smooth and subdued, yet enough to finish things off dryly and clean.
It is so common for a beer to be called “balanced” when it isn’t too hoppy or too malt forward solely. This does not necessarily mean that either side is given a chance to shine…just that there is not an imbalance. But a beer like Evil Dead Red makes us re-examine the use of that term. What this beer proposes is that balance means ALL parts of the beer are given a starring role, each ingredient used to its fullest and imparting all of its best qualities into the finished product leaving nothing behind.