No Sam Raimi. No Bruce Campbell. Just the EVIL! “Evil Dead Trap” reviewed (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Nami, a Japanese late night show host, is seeing her ratings dipping.  Though not in danger of losing her all-female produced show, Nami decides take her team on an investigation of a mysterious snuff tape that was mailed to her specifically.  Left for her is a bread crumb trail of directions to an abandoned military base, Nami and her crew explore the campus’s rundown structure, searching for evidence, a body, a story that they can televise.  Ignoring the dangerous presence around them, they dig deeper into the dilapidating labyrinth where they horrifying discover something waiting for them laid out in a cruel plan of deadly traps with a maniac pulling at all the strings. 

Bred out of a pedigree of pinkusploitations and a nation’s crisis of identity after the Second Great War, “Evil Dead Trap” is a greatly symbolized Japanese machination tale helmed by pink film director Toshiharu Ikeda (“Sex Hunter,” “Angel Guts:  Red Porno”) and penned by an equally historical pink film screenwriter and “Angel Guts” manga series creator Takashi Ishii (“Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture,” “Angel Guts” series).  Also known under its original Japanese title, “Shiryô no wana,” as well as, and my personal favorite, “Tokyo Snuff,” in Spain, “Evil Dead Trap’s” smorgasbord of rape, torture, and gory death naturally shocked viewers upon release and continues to do so as one of J-Horror’s branched out films that segued out from the brutal and depraved pink film inspired context into the new longstanding ghost genre we’ve seen over the last few decades with “Ringu” (“The Ring”) or “Ju-on” (“The Grudge”).  The production company Joy Pack Films, behind the 1980’s obscure Japan films, such as Genji Nakamura’s “Go For Broke” and Banmel Takahashi’s “Wolf,” houses the “Evil Dead Trap” from executive producer Tadao Masumizu.

If you recognize a couple cast members, or maybe just their naked bodies, then there’s something depraved about you!  With all kidding aside, but no seriously, if Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi) or Kondo (Masahiko Abe) look familiar, then you my friend are pink film aficionados as Kobayashi has starred in “Hard Petting” and “Young Girl Story” and Abe was in these pink film hits the “Pink Curtain” trilogy and “Female College Dorm Vs Nursing School Dormitory.”  If these faces didn’t touch you in any kind of sensual way, no worries, leading lady Miyuki Ono brings the star power.  The “Black Rain’s” Ono plays Nami, a go-getter television host/personality with her sights set on ramping up her late night show’s ratings, but also sucked into the posted snuff film’s darkest allure that’s personally calling her into to a precarious story lead.   Nami could also be a homage to one of screenwriter Takashi Ishii’s manga-inspired pink films entitled “Angel Guts: Nami” and the title might not be the only aspect paid honor to with that particular Nami written with a journalistic vocation drawn into and obsessed with a serial rapist’s attacks, making a striking parallel between the two stories that are nearly a decade apart. Eriko Nakagawa and Aya Katsurgagi fill out Nami’s investigating team as Rei and Mako. As a whole, the characters lack personality; Rei and Kondo tickle with relationship woes that are snuffed out before fruition, Rie’s timid innocence barely peaks through, and Nami and Mako’s thicker bond compared to the rest of the team is squashed to smithereens way before being suckled into note worthy tragedy. This late night show team has been reduced to slasher fodder and, honestly, I’m okay with that as we’re only here for the deadly traps. Noboru Mitani, Shinsuke Shimada, and Yûji Honma, as the mystery man looking for his brother, complete “Evil Dead Traps” casting.

“Evil Dead Trap” boasts a melting pot of inspirations, a mishmash of genres, and spins a nation’s split identity variation crowned in aberration. Diversely colorful neon-hazy lighting complimented by a Goblin-esque synth-rock soundtrack from Tomohiko Kira (“Shadow of the Wraith”), Toshiharu Ikeda shadows early Dario Argento inside and outside the popularity of the Italian giallo genre as the “Evil Dead Trap” murder-mystery horrors resemble more of a westernized slasher with a killer concealed behind a mask stalking a fringed, neglected compound in a conspicuous outfit. While the killer dons no hockey mask or snug in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, an equally domicile, yet more calculated, antagonist taunts more brains than brawns, especially with the severity of traps that seemingly float from out of nowhere. The fun is chiefly in the imagination of how the trap designs operate in the void of physics of a slasher fodder film so wipe clean the Jigsaw and the “Saw” films from your mind completely and relax to enjoy the outlandish kill scenes. Some of the kills are imperialistically inspired by Imperial Japan, that is, to blend the wartime nation’s atrocities with how the proud country wants to distance itself from that old-fashion, war-criminal, stoically perverse superstratum layer, but that’s were “Evil Dead Trap” pulls for most of the juicy parts as well as supplementing with Argento lighting, some, believe it or not, “Evil Dead” elements of that menacing presence bulldozing through the spiritual world, and an divergent climatic finale stuck to the narrative body that’s akin to pulling off the head of a doll and replacing it with T-Rex head’s. The uniformity quells under the pressure of how to end Nami’s and her attacker’s coda with pageantry weirdness that’s typical status quo Japanese cinema. Lots of symbolism, little modest explanation.

Get caught in “Evil Dead Trap” now back in print and on Blu-ray courtesy of Unearthed Films, distributed by MVD Visual, as part of the extreme label’s Unearthed Classics spine #5. The Blu-ray is presented in a matted 1.66:1 aspect ratio, a format rarely used in the States but widely used in other countries. Reverting to the 1.66:1 from Synapse’s 1.85:1 crop, Unearthed Films showcases more of the European feel, heightening that colorful vibrancy of the Argento-like schemes. Image quality has peaked on this transfer with natural grain with the 35mm stock, but details are not granularly sharp in an innate flaw of the time’s equipment and lighting. Shinichi Wakasa’s unobscured practical effects heed to the details and don’t necessary suffer the wrath of miniscule soft picture qualities when you’re impaling someone or birthing a slimy evil twin…you’ll see. Add in Ikeda’s wide range of shooting techniques, you’d think you’re watching Hitchcock or Raimi and the focus really lands there with the differently camera movements and techniques. The Japanese language single channel PCM audio fastens against that robust, vigorous quality to make “Evil Dead Trap’s” diverse range and depth that much more audibly striking, but there’s a good amount of silver lining in there being no damage albeit discernable, but not intrusive static to the audio files, dialogue is unobstructed and prominent, and the stellar synth-rock soundtrack nostalgically takes you back to when you first watched “Suspiria” or “Dawn of the Dead.” English subtitles are available but display with a few second delay which can be cumbersome if trying to keep up. Special features includes three commentaries that include director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects supervisor Shinichi Wakasa, filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake (“Gun Woman”), and James Mudge of easternKicks. Plus, a Trappings of the Dead: Reflecting on the Japanese Cult Classic retrospect analysis from a Japanese film expert, Storyboards, Behind the scenes stills, promotional artwork, trailers, and a cardboard slipcover with phenomenal artwork. Highly recommend this atypical Japanese slasher, “Evil Dead Trap,” now on Blu-ray home video!

Own “Evil Dead Trap” on Blu-ray!

Evil Joins the Mile High Club! “Flight 7500” review!

output_mHp8FX
The transpacific Vista Pacific Flight 7500 from Los Angeles to Tokyo should have been a long, but relaxing overnight ten hour flight for many of the traveling passengers. After experiencing heart-stopping turbulence, the flight’s most mysterious passenger dies suddenly and violently over the pacific ocean. His death releases a string of strange apparition encounters with rest of the passengers and the crew that literally grapple at their internal fears. As the supernatural force slowly engulfs every inch of the plane, passengers disappear one-by-one and the key to possibly stopping the remorseless evil that has betaken them is to investigate into the unexpected death of the mysterious passenger and into his on-flight baggage.

Ju-on: The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu terrorizes the skies with his trademark macabre of supernatural entities. Shimizu’s “Fightly 7500” mixes Japanese culture with Hollywood cinematic values while also, literally, connecting L.A. with Tokyo with a flight over the pacific. Nothing is scarier than being trapped with no where to run from a menacing force on a pressurized plane that could fail on any given moment. The plane becomes a synonym for death. Shimizu exemplifies the given unforeseen horrors of a plane by adding in the exterior motive of a trembling, and extremely creepy, Shinigami death doll, which allows suddenly dispatched spirits to spook and terrorize. Sinister spirits are unable let go of their robbed mortality. Shimizu couldn’t help but include numerously his trademarks of limbs jutting out suddenly, reaching to grab a surprised victim to face their fate or slowly overcoming an obstacle such as in this film a hand reaching over the edge of a suitcase or springing out of a small airplane trash receptacle.
Screen shot 2016-05-05 at 6.35.22 PM
The cast is made up of relatively recognizable and more modern day horror vets with Amy Smart (“Mirrors”), Scout-Taylor Compton (“Halloween I & II” remakes), “True Blood’s” Ryan Kwanten, Leslie Bibb (The Midnight Meat Train), Rosita Espinosa herself from “The Walking Dead” Christian Serratos, and Jamie Chung (“Sorority Row” remake). Nicky Whelan, Jerry Ferrera, Alex Frost, Rick Kelly, and Johnathon Schaech round out the rest of the cast. The under the radar, non-mainstream cast play their roles respectively and accordingly to the script written by the serial B-horror writer Craig Rosenberg, building up their conflicting outer lives before they’re all crammed into a single jumbo jet liner. However, the instance of too many characters cause each of character’s development to fall flatlined due in part to the measly 80 minute runtime.
Screen shot 2016-05-05 at 6.34.55 PM
Like previous Shimizu ghost features, nothing is what it seems and “Flight 7500” is no exception to that fact, but in trying to build a monumental case to deliver a shock in the finale, various mishaps raise questions that don’t add up the surprising reveal. A couple brain scratching questions rise to the surface, stemming from the following: There were two different midair turbulent events in which both were significant, but the one the film specifies isn’t the one referenced back to the catalyst turn of events in dooming the passengers to a remaining ride of rampaging terror. Also, when the phantasmal mystery becomes resolved and the characters’ realize the understanding behind their strife, the plane’s onboard television transmit a newscast explaining the events that happened to “Flight 7500,” but the divulging is ridiculously forced and a road less traveled trick. The newscast exposition comes as if there isn’t any other means of communicating the characters’ situation, putting in the ground, six-feet under, the mood of the ah-ha moment.
Screen shot 2016-05-05 at 6.34.15 PM
The Lionsgate and CBS Films collaboration presents the 2014 PG-13 feature on DVD in a 16×9 widescreen format with a crisp, LFE heavy English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. The experienced director of photography David Tattersall uses a vibrant, almost neon-like, dark blue tone that sets appropriately the coldness of thrilling spirits and the lifelessness of mechanical plane setting. The Tyler Bates soundtrack feels as inexpensive as the film’s modest budget which is disappointing from Bates whose had solids scores for Zack Snyder’s epic-extravaganza “300” and superhero-melodrama “Watchmen” while also doing John Carpenter justice in re-imagining the “Halloween” theme. “Flight 7500’s” “The Grudge” like effects stay the plotted course given by this director and embodies the airplane as a haunted house in the sky, soaring through living fog, jutting grey hands, and a presence that can’t be shaken. The overall experience doesn’t have a perfect touchdown landing on the runway, but at least the Takashi Shimizu airplane horror doesn’t crash and burn either, leaving viewers walking away safe and satisfied at their journey’s final destination.