Ryo IwamatsuSei HiraizumiShiro SanoKazue Tsunogae
Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki
Medium: film
Year: 1992
Director: Izo Hashimoto
Writer: Izo Hashimoto, Chiaki Konaka
Keywords: Evil Dead Trap, horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Shoko Nakajima, Rie Kondoh, Shiro Sano, Shino Ikenami, Sei Hiraizumi, Kazue Tsunogae, Yoko Ohshima, Yasuhiro Arai, Kitaro, Shota Enomoto, Jun Maeda, Ryo Iwamatsu, Ryo Okubo, Ayako Ono, Usaburo Oshima, Toshiaki Tanabe, Yuji Ogata
Format: 97 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0203132/
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 6 June 2013
Has nothing whatsoever to do with Evil Dead Trap, to the extent that putting a "2" on the end is like calling Spartacus a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. It's either (a) bravely defying the conventions of drama or (b) incompetent. I'm going for the latter.
The story is... um, well. The main character is a fat cinema projectionist (Shoko Nakajima) whose main hobby is serial killing. Her only friend (Rie Kondoh) is a bit of a bitch... and that's the plot. No, I'm not kidding. In fairness it would be wrong to say that nothing happens, because Kondoh has a boyfriend (Shiro Sano) who also fancies Nakajima and every so often someone gets killed. However none of it counts as drama. There's no protagonist, in the sense that no one's trying to do anything. Nakajima lives her dull life. Kondoh lives hers, which is less dull but equally worthless. I suppose there might have been drama if we'd cared even the tiniest speck about Sano and which girl he'll end up with, but we don't. He's a cock on legs and, amazingly, even less sympathetic than the two girls.
This lasts about an hour.
The last half-hour is more eventful. Nakajima spends a small amount of time with a religious cult led by a brilliantly mad old bat with a pet snake. It's a Columbian Red-Tailed Boa. That's a sweet-natured snake and she has taste. Themes come to fruition and there's a revelation so silly that for the rest of the film I was just laughing at it. There's gore so over-the-top that you'd think you were watching a Noboru Iguchi film, which is unintentionally hilarious. The finale then gets even more ridiculous.
I didn't like it, obviously, but there's more to it than that. I'm baffled. It barely counts as a film, if you think films need narrative. I like its themes and subtext, but all that good work is then undone by unconvincing characterisation.
I'll discuss the good stuff. Firstly, the film's clearly brave. In a country where almost everyone on TV these days seems to be young, beautiful and vapid, to the extent that most Japanese Doctor Who fans don't like Donna because she's "too old", Hashimoto is going wildly out on a limb by casting Nakajima. She looks like the back end of a bus, which is great. More films should have heroines like that. Furthermore, it can hardly have escaped anyone's attention at the time that the film they were making bore no relationship to anything that had ever been commercially successful. It's grim, but silly. It's dour and depressing, but unintentionally funny. It's a gory serial killer film, but it's dull. Okay, the latter presumably wasn't deliberate, but at least you can't say Hashimoto was playing safe.
Secondly, the subtext is rich. It's about pregnancy, abortions and the pain of not having children. It's implied that Nakajima was driven mad by having had an abortion when she was young. (Her victims are all young women and she mutilates the bodies afterwards, cutting out their ovaries.) Kondoh thinks she might be pregnant, but that's okay. She'll get rid of it. Even minor characters like Sano's wife or the cult leader are defined by their failure to have children. In the claustrophobic world of this film, that's caused a lot of madness.
Related to this is a small boy, who may or may not exist. His name's Hideki.
My problem with the characterisation is that the female characters are unconvincing and feel as if they've been written like men. Female serial killers are rare, for a start, but rarer still if operating in this Jack the Ripper style and almost vanishingly non-existent if they're killing someone almost every night like this. That's not sustainable. She'd be caught before you could blink. You could claim the Deranged Loner justification, but then on top of that we have the sexuality. Mutilated corpses are arousing, apparently. Kondoh also casually discusses Sano's other sexual partners while preparing to have sex with him.
There's a scene at the 68-minute mark where the women have a discussion that made them seem like real women, which surprised me so much that I noted down the time. (It's not in a nice way, mind you.)
Later we pass still further into unreality, to the extent that I think the entire finale must be a dream sequence or something. There's so much on-screen symbolism that I can't believe we haven't entered Nakajima's madness. That would explain a lot, but it would also mean writing off most of the final act as imaginary bollocks. (The final scene of that white room in a hospital might be explicit confirmation of this interpretation.) We have a choice. We can either accept that the world runs on Cheesy Horror logic (c.f. the hilariously unlikely serial killer revelation), or else we can just watch the last twenty minutes go by in a daze of "this isn't really happening". I'm not wild about either of those, frankly. I think Option Two is the only sane course, but unfortunately that's the mode I was working in and it's not a choice I'd recommend. Pain is funny. Gore shots made me laugh. The rat squeak made me howl.
The end ties in, thematically, with Evil Dead Trap. Stripping out almost everything that matters and concentrating only on a carefully selected five per cent, both films could be said to be about an unreal child that wants to be born. The original film had a silly ending, but this sequel appears to have set itself the challenge of trumping it. That they do. Congratulations. What's done here is indeed sillier than the first film's silliness. The only thing that saves the film is Option Two.
There's a brief bit with an ex-husband that was good, though. That was a disconcerting shard of reality.
Izo Hashimoto also wrote Akira, but to be honest I don't much like that either. There are things I like about the writing here, though. I like the subtle, grimy ways in which they make everyone unlikeable. Sano gets obscurely off-putting moments as well as the vile ones, such as not putting down his hamburger for sex or the way he tells Nakajima she's attractive because she smells. I think the most likeable person in this film is the fraudulent cult leader, followed by the bored, delusional stay-at-home wife. Of the three main characters (Nakajima, Kondoh, Sano), I do believe the least unlikeable is the fat, sullen, ugly, anti-social serial killing cow.
I wouldn't recommend this film, but I must admit that its fans love it. It's wholehearted. I rejected it in large part for its characterisation of the women and related implausibilities, which is all debatable and subjective. If you can accept the film's reality, you'll like it more than I did. Just don't expect it to be another Evil Dead Trap, except in the broadest thematic sense. That film's real follow-up will be The Brutal Insanity of Love(1993), aka. Evil Dead Trap 3, again directed by Toshiharu Ikeda and written by Takashi Ishii. Neither had anything to do with this, obviously. I'm looking forward to the unusual experience of being able to say that a Takashi Ishii film is, at least compared with this, warm-hearted and sympathetic. Evil Dead Trap 2 isn't those things.