Colour, 1991, 102m. / Directed by Iz˘ Hashimoto / Starring Shoko Nakajima, Rie Kondoh / Unearthed (US R0 NTSC), Japan Shock (Holland R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1), Artsmagic (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

Inexplicably passed off as a sequel to the slasherfest Evil Dead Trap, this Asian response to the Crazy Fat Ethel films of the 1980s plumbs the nasty depths of a young woman's psyche with typically gory results. If the first film was an homage to the films of Dario Argento, this one owes everything to Jorg Buttgereit.

City girl Aki (Nakajima) works as a projectionist at a small Japanese theater and doesn't have much of a social life, apart from self-absorbed former classmate Emi (Kondou), now a reporter. At least Aki does have some other use for her time: prowling the streets at night and carving up innocent women. Things get more complicated when Emi, who's busy covering the brutal crimes, tries to fix up Aki with a married man, Kurahashi (Shirou Sano). Meanwhile Aki's murderous instincts are propelled by visions of a creepy young boy, Hideki (the sole reference to the first Evil Dead Trap), leading to a typically nasty denouement.

Loaded with gore and stylish visuals, Evil Dead Trap 2 (originally Shiryo no wana 2: Hideki ) is more erratically paced than its companion film and feels a bit closer to arthouse territory. The performers are all good despite the sketchy nature of their characters, and director Hashimoto (the man behind one of the Guinea Pig films, Lucky Sky Diamond) displays a solid sense of how to execute a gore scene for maximum impact.

The US disc from Unearthed offers a serviceable widescreen transfer which captures the low budget, grimy look of the film adequately enough. Colors veer towards the rusty side, which appears to be the intended color scheme of the film. Optional subtitles in English are the clearest around for this title. The UK DVD offers 16:9 enhancement, though the image quality isn't much of an improvement and, as with a couple of other Asian faux-anamorphic jobs, may just be a blow-up from a similar master. The Dutch disc looks the worst of the bunch, with extremely soft detail and washed out blacks. None of the discs are extras-laden, featuring the theatrical trailer and little else.

Colour, 1988, 102m. / Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda / Starring Miyuki Ono, Fumi Katsuragi / Synapse (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1), Japan Shock (Holland R0 NTSC)

Proving that even the most trite genre elements can still work in the right hands, Evil Dead Trap (Shiryo no wana) leaves no slasher convention and stylish flourish unturned as it provides a ruthless catalog of slasher mayhem. Something of a cult favourite on the bootleg video market for the past decade, the film certainly isn't high art but serves its purpose as a fast moving party film, randomly dishing up graphic and imaginative gore under the most visually impressive settings possible. First of all, don't let the title fool you. Despite the Evil Dead reference, there are no rampaging demons or skeletal apparitions to be found. Late night talk show host Nami (Miyuki Ono) makes a living showing "reality program" videotapes sent in from various viewers. One day she receives a tape featuring the stalking and gruesome mutilation of a young woman, who eventually receives a blade in the eyeball for her troubles. As a publicity stunt, Nami and her crew decide to track down the location in the tape, which leads them to a creepy, seemingly abandoned warehouse containing endless corridors with blue lighting schemes out of Suspiria. One by one the interlopers are picked off in outrageously contrived methods by a raincoat clad madman, who uses crossbows, lariats, and other nasty weapons in his vicious series of literal death traps. Eventually the film narrows down to the standard showdown with the killer, which tosses in a supernatural twist and an inexplicable final sting, ending the film on a blood-soaked note.

If you're a gore fan, there's really no excuse for not having Evil Dead Trap in your collection. The body count technique becomes utterly hyperbolic here, as director Toshiharu Ikeda and screenwriter/comic book legend Takashi Ishii (who later directed the magnificent Gonin) keep the Argento and Fulci homages coming at a fast clip and dispatches characters with a viciousness bordering on the operatic. Oddly enough, the previous year's Stage Fright from Michele Soavi features some astonishingly similar sequences, including fast, shaky, ground level shots from the killer's point of view and a rain-soaked murder outside a car, though whether the filmmakers could have possibly imitated a film so recent is questionable at best. Previously released on DVD in Holland from Japan Shock, Evil Dead Trap has been given quite a impressive visual overhaul here, with the original Japanese version presented with optional English subtitles. The image quality is especially good for a low budget '80s film, with eye-popping bursts of colour throughout and all of that nice grainy detail in sharp focus. The mono soundtrack sounds about the same as it always has, with the baldfaced Argento/Frizzi "homage" music score coming through clear enough. Extras include the Japanese theatrical trailer (which has already graced more than a few gray market sell through collections but looks better here), some hilariously repetitious animated menu screens, and a commentary track with Ikeda and special effects maestro Shinichi Wakasa that can only be described as surreal. This one's up there with Driller Killer on the unintentional humour scale, featuring the most rigid and unconvincing "spontaneous" observations ever recording. Both participants giggle and shatter their sentences into indecipherable fragments, with pronunciations that set back political correctness about forty years. Synapse even included a disclaimer inside the packaging that the commentary isn't up to their usual standards, but thank God they decided to include it anyway. This one's a real keeper; amaze your friends with the movie, then send them over the edge with the commentary.

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