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!

Gun Woman vs. Evil! “Gun Woman” review!

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A determined doctor pledges revenge after his wife fell victim to a crazy, sadistic, cannibalistic, sex-fiend killer. Known by only the Mastermind, his quest lures him to buy a junkie from an underground trafficking organization and trains her, without given her a choice, to be an lethal assassin. The Mastermind teaches her hand-to-hand combat, how to handle a handgun, and even how to survive surgical procedures in order to have the mechanical parts of a handgun implanted into various portions of her body and then abstract the bulky pieces when the time is right. The dastardly plan for assassination comes to fruition when the Mastermind’s target makes his rounds at a necrophilia and cannibalistic business called “The Room” where Gun Woman feigns her death to infiltrate and carry out the hit.
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“Gun Woman” is an insane Japanese action-thriller concept from the mind of a relatively new director Kurando Mitsutake. From this reviewer’s point of view, Mitsutake’s film is much more tame compared to the other numerous Japanese’s extreme and unthinkable plot lines. Basically, the Japan film industry produces three solid genres that hover around outside the realm of their mega-popular Japanese Adult Video and Pinku markets: Dramatic noris involving a various range of characters from gangsters to samurais, the Americanized popular ghost films such as Ringu or Ju-on, and the outrageous, ultra-violent films, spreading amongst various sub-genres from action to horror. “Gun Woman” suits the latter category with it’s necrophilia, super-soaking blood, rape and torture, cannibalism, and the odd jobs of the reproductive body parts. Remember when I said that “Gun Woman” is the fairly tame?
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The Maxam produced film stars the ever gorgeous actress Asami of “Machine Girl” fame. You may remember my last Asami film review for the Pink Eiga released “Prison Girls” starring the once former JAV actress turned phenomenal B-movie heroine. Asami’s uncanny ability to conform to any role heightens the film’s viewing and enjoyable factors and “Gun Woman” is the epitome of B-movie schlock, almost as if her role as Gun Woman was made just for Asami. Alongside Asami are Kairi Narita as the Mastermind and Noriaki Kamata as the heinous sex-fiend only known as Hamazaki’s son. Narita towers over Asami with a strong muscular face, proving to be a powerhouse character even though the Mastermind character is partially crippled. Kamata possesses such a freaky super thin, yet muscular build with defined facial features that his role as a necrophiliac, a cannibal, and a rapist-murderer wouldn’t be so far from the truth if bumping into Kamata randomly on the street.
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While Asami’s character might be the heroine of the film, “Gun Woman” surely feels like an anti-woman film. Many of the female roles, no matter how minor, are subjected to some sort of abuse. Hamazaki’s son rapes and strangles various American women while also raping and killing the Mastermind’s wife. The Mastermind himself kidnaps an innocent woman and uses her as a tool to create a lethal weapon in Asami. Even Hamazaki’s female body guard doesn’t get a chance to have one line in the entire film, does really nothing at all, and ultimately meets her end and I can’t help but wonder why even have this character at all if the character serves so little a purpose? Like I aforementioned, Asami might be this kick-ass, gun-toting, deadly femme-fatal, but her mission for revenge isn’t even her mission for revenge; its the Mastermind’s and he’s using her, a junkie bought off a secret organization, with given a single choice: to either kill for him or die.
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“Gun Woman” markets itself as a “no-holds-barred revenge flick” and has all the makings of a cult film. Blood gushes out of gaping wounds, intense fight and gun scenes, and naked women galore grace the film’s entire presence. However, “Gun Woman’s” enticing premise isn’t without major flaws including obvious plot holes, inaccurate medical procedures, and some unbalanced acting from not the Japanese, but from the English speaking Anglo-Saxons driving the car during the outer-story. Hey, this is the movie industry where anything can happen as long as someone can think of whatever it is up and as long as someone can construct it as well. The whole premise behind the film is bogus in reality and Asami’s character might as well be a part of the IMF because her mission is impossible. To provide an example, nobody could withstand having three parts of a firearm surgically implanted into their body and then live 22 minutes later after removing the said parts by reopening the wounds to assassinate everybody in “The Room.” Other factors are involved when contemplating blood loss and time such as what if Asami is additionally injured resulting in blood loss? What if her pulse rate increases during heart-pounding scenarios causing a faster blood flow?
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Show business is all smoke screens, lengthy mirrors, and customized misdirection and Mitsutake’s “Gun Woman” certainly provides just that while pushing the boundaries of taboo subjects and being, what I consider, a chauvinistic perspective against women. If a viewer wishes to suspend disbelief for 87 minutes, witness a bloody-stellar end game, and see their fair share of naked and abused women, then “Gun Woman” would be right up their mentally deranged alley. The Scream Factor (Shout Factory) Blu-ray release is presented with little digital noise interference in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ration with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix with English subtitles available. I’m not sold on the Scream Factory Blu-ray cover of a closeup of Asami’s face and holding two smoking sidearms in a criss-cross way (think Kate Beckinsail on the “Underworld Evolution” DVD). This doesn’t actually represent the movie as she never really garnishes two handguns. Other releases are more accurate with a naked and bloodied Asami, aiming one handgun. Still, the release is solid and I wouldn’t discourage anybody, especially Asami fans, of a good time.