When the EVIL Novice Becomes the EVIL Master. “Assault! 13th hour!) reviewed! (Impulse Pictures / DVD)

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!

A gas station attendant is beguiled by the culpable bad boy antics of a serial rapist in a red jacket. As the attendant becomes more enthralled by the sociopath’s life-altering school of assault and apprenticeship, he attempts a solo flight to turn his women victims into loving his deplorable acts of sexual misconducts. His emulation of sprouting a decadent rape fantasy fails as the connective alternative sexual experience between the powerful and the powerless only induces complete fear. Curious to how the connoisseur of forced copulation gets away with women paying him for ravishment again, the novice learner of lechery aims to seek as much knowledge as possible without hesitation and without question but a homosexual gang hunts down his master in the crimson jacket for an unspecified act that warrants retribution. Caught in the middle, the gas station attendant must fight for his life if he wants to continue the legacy of violation.

Better known as “Rape! 13th Hour,” Yasuharu Hasebe’s “Assault! 13th Hour” is a perhaps a more marketable film for many western distributors with the world rape kicking off as an exclamational in the title. One of Japan’s well-known exploitation and pinku filmmakers, having directed a slew of films with a combination of action, crime, and sexual dysphoria and kink with the Stray Cat Rock film series (“Sex Hunter,” “Delinquent Girl Boss”) as well as “Rape!,” “Secret Honeymoon: Rape Train,” and “Raping!” Yeah, I would say Hasebe had a deviant fantasy for the subject. Released in 1977, “Assault! 13th Hour” comes from the same mind of “Hausu” screenwriter Chiho Katsura and Toshiro Masuda’s “The Perfect Game,” a Criterion release film, screenwriter Yoshio Shirasaka. Now, the 73-minute narrative rapt in the idea of women throwing themselves, as well as their yen, at the attacker in a twisted reaction to forceful violation with a greenhorn being trained-to-inherit the practice is by no means as surreally horrifying as “Hausu” or as complicatedly thrilling as the gambling-gone-awry “The Perfect Game.” Still, an underlying, nagging feeling of the patriarchal power that is deeply engrained into Japanese culture can be digested with this pinku-production under the company eye of Nikkatsu Corporation, releasing the film under its pinku eiga subsidiary, the Nikkatsu Roman Porn banner, with Ryoji Ito (“Cruel High School Girls: Sex Lynch”) producing.

Now, whether “Assault! 13th Hour” is a sequel to either Hasebe’s “Rape!” or “Assault!” is not clear from this reviewer’s eyes – I have yet to see either one of those particular previously films – but there lies one commonality between all of them, Akira Takahashi. A lifer in the pinku eiga industry, Takahashi has collaborated with Hasebe on a number of films that run the gamut of exploitation. For his role of Crimson, a serial rapist and delinquent who sports a red bomber jacket, the principal predator is more mysterious in not only his actions but his backstory involving the homosexual gang boss and his two equally sapphic goons and this is where I suspect “Assault! 13th Hour” might be a follow up film as Crimson’s historical transgressions don’t come to light. Hence, the gang’s manhunt never fleshes out to a warranted chase down and the unsuspected sexual tension that produces from it between Crimson and the gang boss. Takahashi brings a confident and suave creep to the lead but doesn’t necessarily have the charisma to make Crimson stand out on his own as a memorable character. Crimson’s accomplice, and the story’s perspective primary, played by Yûdai Ishiyama (“Izo”), fits snuggly into the part of curious in his character who takes uninitiated baby steps into wanting to be a part of this cabal of beastly baroque bedfellows that can persuade Stockholm syndrome upon their victims before they zip up their pants. Ishiyama’s role provides more depth as a low-end gas station attendant with a pent-up perversion and who’s better to exploit and nurture his willingness more than his equivocal new best friend, Crimson. The story’s unpublicized character list provides the story with a nebulous pall to make a statement that this can happen to anyone and can even happen to this cast list of Yuri Yamashina, Tamaki Katsura, Naomi Oka, and Rei Okamoto.

I’m still wrapping my head around the plot’s sudden drop into mid-story without a callback to Crimson’s sordid history that weaves between his seemingly magical persuasion of perversion and his tumultuous involvement with the homosexual gang who want more than just to beat him to pulp. The chance stance Hasebe has to fashion into a comprehensible story, based off the script’s limiting section of a whole, is turned into a wildly suitable and often alternate universe viewed milieu where corruption and immorality goes without proper attention or justice. There are no detectives tracking down the rapists’ rampage or even the display of just a single police vehicle at the aftermath of the crimes. Judgements are contained within the confines of the criminal underworld from a twisted perspective of vigilante justice and, you know, it works! The one-sided standpoint immerses the viewer into a filthy, degrading, and perversely fantastical sea of immorality where lawlessness is the law, but as far as pink films are concerned, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tame entry that doesn’t shockingly exploit the senses. Likely, that reserved jolt from the jarring material stems from decades of repetitive similar films of the same genre and/or nature and we, those fans drowning in fascination of the pink film category, might feel a little numb to its debauchery though the ending’s infringing necrophilia onto nearly every possible orifice on the victim’s body can be an eye-opener, or an eye-closer depending on your level of comfort and intrigue. Assault! 13th Hour” explores a trade far less trodden in its unusual master and pupil dynamic and subjugates any ambiguities over the blurry line between heterosexuality and homosexually with a slightly biased preconceived notion that heterosexual assault leads to viable passion whereas the counter only offers brutality and bloodshed.

Arriving onto DVD from Impulse Pictures, the XXX and erotica sublabel of Synapse Films, is the Nikkatsu Roman released “Assault! 13th Hour!” The anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation renders a respectable transfer of the 35mm film despite the noticeable age and wear of the warm, inferior negative stock that often appears dark and detailed indiscernible, unlike the stylish use of high contrast. The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 dual channel casts a better-than-expected dialogue track and general ambient score albeit the overplayed audio bytes for cars revs and screeching tires. The constant low whir never goes above a whisper, leaving alone the dialogue to remain clear and free of obstructions and that also goes for the absence of pops and hissing. The newly translated and removable English subtitles pace well, display without typos, and are synchronously consistent. The 1977 Japanese erotica and roughie is a feature only release for Impulse Pictures with no bonus material included. The tight and taut, rough and dirty, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tinderbox of ferocity as well as a tender box of far out fantasies that makes this dichotomy of sexuality and violence an interesting slice of Japanese erotic cinema.

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!

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!