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John’s Horror Corner: Evil Dead Trap (1988; aka Shiryô no wana), a higher quality B-movie J-horror that starts out like a haunted house movie but ends with demon baby madness.

April 22, 2022

MY CALL:  This Japanese B-movie is just passable until the utter madness of the final act, which makes the journey more worthwhile. I enjoyed this oddity which seemed to shift subgenres from a haunted house, to a haphazard slasher, and finally to supernatural evil monster baby shenanigans.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Evil Dead TrapFor another Asian horror movie ending in utter gory madness, go for Seeding of a Ghost (1983).

When a late-night TV reporter receives a mysterious package with a snuff tape, she watches a horrific torture-murder transpire. Wanting to air the story on the news, Nami (Miyuki Ono; Black Rain) assembles a crew—Kondo (Masahiko Abe), Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi), Masako (Aya Katsuragi) and Rie (Eriko Nakagawa)—to visit the location on the tape to investigate whether or not it was real or a fake. But what’s most interesting about the tape is that it ends with an image of Nami!

Within the very first minutes, this film is pulling no punches and making every effort to shock and titillate our horrific senses. We see a blade penetrate flesh and slowly lacerate parting tissue as a bound victim thrashes in her bonds. Even more off-putting is the blade slowly piercing an eyeball, which spews its gelatinous contents. At this point, I thought we were in for something akin to Red Room (1999), 8mm (1999) or The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007). But it doesn’t maintain the meanness at such a level. At least, not until the very end scenes.

Upon arrival to the snuff tape site, a chaotically fast, shaky-cam POV of some thing or some force closes in on the abandoned factory. Like… in Evil Dead (1981)? Well as it turns out, that’s probably the only Evil Dead-ish thing to be found along with the misleading title.

Most of the scare gags are pretty basic. Gross-out bugs and maggots, a ‘surprise’ snake, a friend jumping out for a practical joke scare… but they merely warm us up for the revelations of mangled corpses, severed heads, and some sort of impaling floorboard booby trap (which was pretty cool btw) which sort of appeared very much like the “factory” attacking her. There are some brutal death traps, though nothing I’d call an “evil dead” trap.

The crew encounters a chained-up guy in a ball-gag at the mercy of a strange masked figure, a dapper fellow curiously wearing a business suit, and a murderous hobo who engages in sexual battery. Any one of them (or all of them) could be the behind the killing. Punctuating the unfolding of this mystery, director Toshiharu Ikeda (who has a strong background in erotic movies and cast adult film stars in this movie) goes with what he knows best and injects more nudity than feels appropriate. But don’t let that deter you. Despite these scenes, the movie stands well on its own as a quality zany B-movie.

I must say that over the course of the first 75 minutes of this movie I was mildly entertained, but never impressed. But during the final act, some things transpire that are gloriously gross including something of a combination birth-transformation scene. Yes, from a man’s chest bursts an organ slug that metamorphoses into a guts-covered demon baby with pyrokinetic/telekinetic powers that uses its projectile umbilical cord to strangle its victim! There’s even something of a horrific birth scene. Where was this for the first half of the movie?

The last 20 minutes were awesomely gory, zany, bonkers, gross-out fun. Wow. Shame the majority of the film was ‘just okay’ to ‘maybe’ good. But in those last 20 minutes this mutates into something disgusting, exploitative and utterly ridiculous. To be clear, I liked it. Sure, it starts slow. But it reaches full-tilt bonkers by the end and left me with a fond gruesome memory.

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