Evil Dead Trap 2: The Specter of Abortion
A Video Essay by Kyle Hintz
In the average slasher film, which this would appear to be, Aki, a shy, withdrawn, overweight female movie projectionist would be our first victim, or perhaps our final girl. But she is neither. Instead, we are presented with a unique and complex protagonist, who is in fact the killer.
But let's rewind for a second and get some context.
The original Evil Dead Trap is widely regarded as the first Japanese splatter film. Here’s a quick synopsis: a snuff film is used as bait to lure a TV reporter and her co-workers to an abandoned air force base where they are stalked and killed. It's heavily influenced by American slashers and Italian horror, with specific nods to Lucio Fulci's "Zombi" and Dario Argento's "Suspiria". But aside from having a character named Hideki and another character who is a TV reporter, the connection between the two films is tenuous.
So, back to Evil Dead Trap 2.
The opening image is of a construction site, a seemingly irrelevant bit of texture, which will be important later. On her break, Aki smokes and flips through a grisly book of photos titled "On the Body in Ruins". When she returns to the projection booth she sees a boy looking up from the audience. This is Hideki, the seed of her trauma. She goes down to check the theater, but he is gone. On her way out, Aki talks with her co-worker Noda and watches her apply lipstick, quietly resenting her femininity. Walking through neon-drenched Tokyo, Aki is adrift in a world of transactions, both financial and sexual. Prostitutes and their johns mock and taunt her, one even flicks a cigarette at her.
Aki meets her friend, Emi, for dinner and lends her the book of photos. Emi is an alpha female TV reporter and former idol. Polished, attractive, extroverted, everything that Aki isn't. Emi offhandedly mentions Aki's weight, tries to make her over and fix her up with her friend Kurahashi, who joins them for dinner. Emi leaves early to report on the killer on the loose, who is targeting women and cutting out their ovaries. Kurahashi offers to drive Aki home, but she declines.
The prostitute that flicked a cigarette at Aki finishes with her john and in an impressionistic sequence, antithetical to the style of the first film, she is killed. She lies sprawled out and splattered with blood like a composition from the book of photos. It is implied that Aki tore out her uterus, though we never see this act, the film obscures the gory details from us as Aki's psyche obscures them from herself.
Reviewing her latest news report, Emi finds her looks and their marketplace value are on the decline, much to her dismay. In the background of her report is the construction site from the opening, it is mentioned in passing that it has a “crime scene look to it”. Emi and Kurahashi go to the movie theater to toy with Aki. Emi spurs Kurahashi on to take advantage of Aki. He makes another advance, invading the projection booth, but again Aki denies him. Dejected and angry, Kurahashi goes home to his wife Toshiko, who he finds playing with toys in a child’s bedroom in the dark. She says their son, Hideki, went out to play and never came back. Kurahashi seems at loss to deal with her.
Meanwhile Aki makes herself up, imitating the women around her: Emi, her co-worker Noda, and the murdered prostitute, adopting a promiscuous persona and drawing the attention of countless desperate, leering men. She invites two such men to defile her in an abandoned building, but Hideki appears and the specter of her abortion scares them off. Her trauma repressing her sexuality.
In another arthouse murder sequence, Aki claims a new victim. The female form silhouetted by the oppressive neon billboards of Tokyo, commerce distracting from the underlying bloodshed. The next morning, Emi arrives on the scene and is aroused by what she sees. She sates her desire via an afternoon tryst with Kurahashi. After which she informs him that she might be pregnant, but tells him not to worry, that she expects nothing from him.
Again, Aki sees Hideki in the theater, but finds no one there. Her manager, Muraki refers her to a spiritual healer named Kannazuki. That night Emi throws a party and plays the tape from the crime scene, watching the gore uncut on video while they do drugs. Emi mentions that "supposed horror-like things” happened at the construction site. Aki sees Hideki in the background of the video. His specter lingers at every crime scene, a reminder of the macabre acts Aki’s trauma has inspired.
A friend of Emi's comes onto Aki but Kurahashi intervenes her, offering her a ride home. Kurahashi drops Aki off and returns home. Toshiko is cooking pancakes for Hideki, who has returned. Kurahashi tells her to stop pretending, that she never gave birth, implying that he forced her to have an abortion, resulting in her mental regression. The specter of abortion haunts Kurahashi too, driving him to seek love outside the home.
Aki continues to see Hideki in the background of Emi's news reports. She visits Kannazuki, who promises her disciples happiness and prosperity, performing pentecostal-like rituals and worshipping a god named Shinki. Kannazuki performs an exorcism of sorts on Aki. She says Aki’s ancestors are in sorrow and that she is haunted by bad karma. She tells Aki to draw what she desires and Aki draws crude stick figures with torn out uteruses over and over until she erupts into a fit. Afterwards, she gets in touch with her sexuality, caressing her body while looking in the mirror. Then Kurahashi shows up and forces himself on her, though eventually Aki gives in to him and they make love.
After a shift at the movie theater, Emi, Aki and Noda go out for drinks. Noda gossips about their manager Muraki, convinced he has a hidden past. She envies Emi’s beauty and celebrity. Emi confronts Aki about her lack of a romantic relationship, venting her jealousy about Kurahashi. She says that Aki is defective and a narcissist who thinks that she is the only one who is hurt. She says she will not lose Kurahashi and confesses that she too had an abortion. Thus the specter of abortion links Aki, Emi and Kurahashi.
Aki visits the construction site used as a background in Emi's news reports, the site of “supposed horror-like things” and finds a charred doll. An obvious symbol of the aborted child. Kannazuki asks to see Aki in private. She reveals that she has cancer. She says that she founded her religion 10 years ago after her husband left her due to her inability to bear a child. She confesses her religion is a bit of a sham, but she does have some genuine spiritual powers. She sensed that Aki was the killer and knows she is struggling with a power brought about by the spirits of the dead, i.e. Hideki. She warns Aki, “Don’t let it use you.” I.e. don’t succumb to the dark power born of your trauma.
Meanwhile Kurahashi’s house has been overrun by Hideki. The doorbell rings ceaselessly as we find Emi at the door. Leaving, she spots Aki on the street. Emi chases her down and tells her that she put Kurahashi up to sleeping with her and that she carries his child. This breaks Aki. After her shift, Aki goes to Emi's apartment to confront her, but finds Toshiko dead in the bathtub. Emi says “I now carry the child you couldn’t give birth to. His name is Hideki.” Aki and Emi fight, but Aki manages to escape and hides out in the movie theater.
Kannazuki is found dead. Kurahashi shows up at the movie theater, kissing and embracing Aki, fulfilling her desires. But then he turns sadistic, abusing her and behaving like a child, like Hideki. Then this is all revealed to be a hallucination. Muraki tells Aki that Kannazuki committed suicide and reveals that she was his ex-wife.
Aki returns to the construction site to face her trauma. She finds Noda dead, killed by Emi. Emi appears, tearing Noda’s uterus out and running off. Aki chases her into a section of the building that was formerly a maternity clinic, finally revealing the significance of this location: it was the site of Aki’s abortion. There’s a flash of light and Aki finds herself in a decrepit operating room, strapped to a table with Kurahashi as the surgeon, about to relive her abortion. She breaks free and escapes Kurahashi.
Aki and Emi fight in a stunning slow-motion sequence, a bloody ballet of feminine fury. During the fight they venture deep into the belly of the building, down into a flooded room. Aki fatally wounds Emi. As Emi dies, Kurahashi bursts forth from her womb, the aborted child lives, killing the mother in the birthing process. Aki kills this birthed Kurahashi.
Then she awakens in a hospital room where she is reunited with Hideki, her aborted child. She smiles, finally facing her trauma and making peace with it, thus gaining freedom from the specter of abortion.