Shy and sullen Aki Otami (Shoko Nakajima) is a projectionist at a fleabag theatre in a rundown and seedy section of town, where she’s haunted by fleeting visions of a small boy whom she spots in various places around the building, though no one else seems to notice him but her. One night, she meets her friend Emi (Rie Kondoh) out for a drink and is introduced to her new boyfriend, married philanderer Kurashi (Shiro Sano). Emi is a has-been teen TV idol that has found work as a tabloid news reporter. As low as she is on the food chain of fame, Emi is nevertheless a self-absorbed narcissist residing in her own little world, and fails to notice Kurashi’s obvious and creepy infatuation with Aki.
Currently making headlines on Emi’s show is a brutal serial killer targeting young prostitutes and subjecting them to grisly sexual mutilations. As a matter of fact, Aki is responsible for the killings. (This is revealed barely 15 minutes into the story, so it’s hardly a spoiler.) Aki commits these crimes whilst in a weird, almost possessed haze, and wakes up afterwards with only a vague recollection of her actions. Proving she’s got her priorities in the right place, Aki seems more troubled by the persistent sightings of the little boy who, in keeping with the clich’ of Asian child ghosts, disappears whenever Aki tries to confront him. That is, until she begins to spot him in the background of Emi’s news reports. I think the boy is the Hideki of the title, though don’t expect movie to say either way.
As if a serial killer with a Jekyll and Hyde complex wasn’t enough to fill a movie, there’s also Emi’s gradual descent into perversity. She becomes more and more sexually aroused by her visits to the murder sites, at one point getting so worked that she has to meet Kurashi for a clumsy quickie. And just when you begin to wonder why the hell Kurashi would bother spending time with these two nutty ladies, we follow him home one night where he’s awaited by cold leftovers and a clearly unbalanced wife who spends her time in a dark bedroom staring at a TV, all the while waiting for their son Hideki to come home.
I’ve never seen 1988’s “Evil Dead Trap,” and haven’t heard or read enough positive spin on it to send me to track it down. So I might have missed some crucial background information on director Izo Hashimoto’s sequel, but it’s doubtful. “Evil Dead Trap 2” is a mess, primarily because Hashimoto tries to be two things at once and fails miserably at both. The inclusion of the Hideki character is apparently meant to invoke the prequel, but the sequel makes no attempts to put him in context or explain how he’s tied into the three leads. That’s not much of a problem, though, since the character doesn’t linger for more than a few seconds onscreen before disappearing again. The boy also looks different throughout the movie, depending on whose plotline he appears in, which may mean there’s more than one boy hanging on the sidelines.
These inconsistencies, as well as the over the top shock ending, suggest that “Evil Dead Trap 2” is going for something more surreal, treading on the same ground covered by Takashi Miike’s “Gozu” or the more extreme output of the Davids (Lynch and Cronenberg), but unfortunately “Evil Dead Trap 2” is far too incompetent to play in that arena. There’s the occasional shot that’s framed to suggest something meaningful is going on, but they’re dull and indulgent, as if the director had too much film in the gate and couldn’t figure out how to draw out the maximum running time from the script.
The movie is also incredibly low-rent and it shows. The gore effects are at the level of a high school film project (or one of those homemade movies M. Night Shyamalan throws onto his DVD editions) and the effects that aren’t completely incompetent will instill a strong sense of the “ho” and “hum”. I have no problem with a movie made on the cheap, but there isn’t even a hint of style or substance in “Evil Dead Trap 2” to suggest that there is talent behind the camera. If anything, the film makes you long for a hangnail to gnaw on to otherwise occupy your time.
But the absolute biggest hurdle the movie faces is the casting of Shoko Nakajima as Aki. The character is written to be one of those “pretty ugly girls” parodied in films like “Not Another Teen Movie”; one of those shy mousy girls who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is and how she affects men. Problem is, Nakajima is simply not attractive. She’s overweight, has really bad hair, and has the personality of a sea monkey. There’s nothing about Aki’s character that would draw anyone in, making it difficult to buy Kurashi’s almost stalker-like obsession with her. When Aki gets garishly slutted up during one of her killer moods and struts around town catching the eye of nearly every man she meets, the movie’s conceit of Aki as a sexpot simply falls apart.
“Evil Dead Trap 2” is quite possibly the most painful movie I ever had to sit through. It’s bumped off the previous holder of that title, 1995’s muddled and heavyhanded “Strange Days,” thanks to an Unholy Trinity of unlikable and unpleasant leads with the combined moral fortitude of a daytime talk show contestant. Their adventures are also defiantly dull, despite flashes of gruesome violence and nudity. There may be some entertainment value in witnessing these human train wrecks implode onscreen, but how much can one person take before we get to that pay off?
Izo Hashimoto (director)
CAST: Shoko Nakajima …. Aki Ootani
Rie Kondoh …. Ami Kageyama
Shiro Sano …. Kurashi