I am a fan of the first Evil Dead Trap (1988) film, a Japanese answer to the stalk and slash horror genre with heavy nods to Argento and Italian giallo film makers as well as a freaked out, over the top, unpredictable twist in the finale. It is stylish but by no means genius film making, and if you're looking for "a bunch of characters stuck in an isolated location slowly being picked off in gruesome ways by a rain slicker wearing killer" then it really delivers. Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki (1991) is not a pure sequel really, having little connection to the first film, but living up to the style of askew tone that the first film established.
The central character is Aki, a fat, shy, film projectionist. Her only freind is an ex-high school chum, Emi, who now works as a reporter and shares Aki's more morbid tastes, like the dark work of photographer Joel Peter Witkin. Emi introduces Aki to the married man she is having an affair with, Kurashi, who also seems to be have and eye for the sullen Aki. A rash of murders have been occurring, prostitutes being found eviscerated near an area where there is a lot of construction over a supposedly haunted patch of land. Emi reports on the murders and finds herself turned on by them, while Aki it seems is the murderer. She is present at the murder scenes, blood soaked, but the next day she seems puzzled, like the acts of the previous night were sleepwalking, or perhaps even possession. She begins to see the same child out of the corner of her eye and in the background of the murder news reports. After she seeks the advice of a spiritualist and cult leader and consummates her affair with Kurashi, she, Emi, Kurashi, and the mysterious child form a circle that leads to a head-to-toe bloody finale.
One of the nice things I can say about Evil Dead Trap 2 is its non-conformist casting of a female who isn't your typical beauty as a lead. Having a portly, hanging faced outcast was a great idea, but it is a film full of ideas ill-executed. Its plot liberally borrows from many horror influences which end up in a nearly unrecognizable heap on the floor because they are crushed by an incoherent plot. While a nightmarish imbalance was no doubt intended, harkening to the likes of Rosemary's Baby and Suspiria, you can still tell the film makers couldn't quite make up their minds and the end result is amateurishly ambiguous. The events of the film could be some real supernatural occurrence or they could all just be part of Aki's mind. When Aki visits the cult, its leader has some vision of Aki being dangerous, yet they also show one of her lackeys dramatically flicking the lights on and off. Pretty much sums up the film- you're not sure if its an intentional misdirection. By the end you can tell the writers probably couldn't decide which way to lean, the bizarrely supernatural or the demented psychological. It feels like one of those movies set on auto control, based around a few murder sequences and a vague concept of characters and their arcs.
The director was is Izo Hashimoto, whose resume really only jumps out at me because he was one of the co-writers of the HK fantasy Peacock King- a movie that, unlike Evil Dead Trap 2, really knew what it was every second of its goofy/fantasy/action/b-movie screentime.
The DVD: Unearthed Films. The first Evil Dead Trap has been out for awhile in a rough edition from Synapse that is a step above this sequel release because it has commentary by the director and cohort in one of the most gleefully fun fractured English commentaries I've heard.
Picture: Widescreen. Non-Anamorphic. Having seen my fare share of Japanese movies, especially ones like this film which were aimed mainly at the direct to video market, I wasn't expecting too much and didn't get too much. There are a couple of spots of artifacts and some ghosting that do not help the already grainy and soft image. Contrast is on the gray side and the color is fairly vibrant which helps since the film is punctuated by neon Argento-esque scenes. But, if you are a fan, you will expect as much, and it is certainly a fair enough transfer and beats the heavy cost of importing a different edition.
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese Language with optional yellow English subtitles. Average audio, neither impressive or troublesome. It gets the job done, vocals come though clear, mixed well with the forgettable score and fx track. Subtitles had a couple of minor flubs, but I've read far worse and they were spaced well and easy to follow.
Extras: Chapter Selections--- Photo Gallery--- Trailers for Evil Dead Trap 2, Junk, Devils Experiment, Flower of Flesh and Blood and The Making of Guinea Pig.
Conclusion: While it is not the worst thing I've seen and some of the visuals and visceral horror amount to some good "guilty pleasure" entertainment, the film as a whole is not a knockout. Likewise, the transfer is only serviceable, not really extra-laced and the image quality is a bit rough, so I'll say it is a better rental for most and only worth buying if you are a big horror fan with more forgivable tastes.