Review © Mandi Apple, 2003.

Directed by Jôji (George) Iida, 2000, 132 min. starring Yosuke Eguchi, Miwako Ichikawa, Yoshio Harada, Takashi Kashiwabara, Yukiko Okamoto, Taro Suwa and Haruhiko Katô.

After making the disastrous flop Rasen (the original - and now somewhat notorious - sequel to Ring) in 1999, it's really no wonder that Jôji Iida decided to change his name to the not-very-well-disguised George Iida, presumably to throw detractors of his style of film-making off the scent. Hell, after making such a bomb, I'd have been tempted to have my appearance altered by plastic surgery as well, to be on the safe side. However, what is a surprise is that Iida also decided to remain within the horror genre of moviemaking and continue along his original path, despite having suffered many, many proverbial slings and arrows from outraged moviegoers. And while Another Heaven was reasonably well-received, both critically and at the Japanese box office in 2000, it was hardly what you'd call a groundbreaking movie, and certainly didn't prove Iida's original detractors from the time of Rasen wrong.

The real problem with this movie, for me, is the plot: it's a confused, troubled and ill-thought-out mixture of ideas borrowed circumspectly from Kiyoshi Kurosawa's amazing work of art Cure, and then liberally topped up with tired, creaky stuff that comes straight out of such classic oldies as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, The Hidden, and even Alien. In addition to that mess of mismatched concepts - a cannibalistic alien police drama from the future, indeed!- Iida wants to be seen to be portraying the movie as some big-issue morality tale, and how does he go about doing this? He throws in the usual Oliver Stone-esque attacks on violence in the media (innovative!); but because he simply can't find anything more profound and insightful to say about it other than "oh, violence in the mass media, it's a bad thing and it makes some people do bad things too", he just drops it like your proverbial hot potato... just as he just dropped things from the original Ring because he couldn't find any way of fitting them into the Rasen structure.

Frankly, I continue to find Iida a lazy, not particularly perceptive director with shaky storylines and no sense of visual aesthetics, and Another Heaven is no exception. Merely filling the screen full of male eye candy (in the comely shape of three mega-pin-ups, Yosuke Eguchi, the well-known J-pop star/actor Takashi Kashiwabara (whose brother Shuuji put in an excellent performance in Long Dream), and a bizarre and shameful under-usage of the talented young actor Haruhiko Katô) and half-naked young women, does not make for good visuals, unless you're shooting something which ain't horror.


“Something evil ran from her head…”

Another Heaven opens with the Tokyo police being called in to investigate a particularly nasty murder scene in a small apartment; the case is being handled by a young detective called Manabu Hayase (Yosuke Eguchi, who puts in a fair, although somewhat pedestrian, performance) and his partner, an old, cynical, world-weary detective (why are old cops always cynical and world-weary? Is it the law, or something? ;-D) called Tobitaka (played, well, competently by Yoshio Harada).

However, when the rest of the squad appear on the scene (and honestly, I'd be surprised if the actual Tokyo police force really do bear this much resemblance to the Keystone Kops), along with an elderly forensic doctor called Akagi, they discover the digusting facts of the case: the victim's neck was broken, his head was cut open, and the murderer had removed his brain in order to cook up a special order of brain stew. And unfortunately, this is not the only case: it seems that a rash of cannibalistic serial killings have been taking place all over the city, each with exactly the same motive. Clearly the killer has been reading 101 Delicious and Nutritious Recipes for the Human Cranium.

Naturally, the police are pretty flummoxed, not to mention nauseated, and since the media have got ahold of the story, they're pretty keen to arrest the serial killer as soon as possible, as a rising sense of panic is gripping the airwaves about violence on TV and in the movies inciting real-life acts of evil (ooh, ironic!). Tobitaka's (slightly sexist) theory about the killer's profile is that the mysterious cannibal has to be a fairly powerful man weighing about 100kg, with a grip of 150kg - this would be the absolute minimum requirement for someone to be able to break an adult male's neck with their bare hands.

In the meantime, while the police are frantically searching for clues, Manabu gets a chance to pop home to his apartment for some rest, whereupon he is disturbed by his sometime-girlfriend Asako (Miwako Ichikawa), an ex-convict cabaret-club hostess with an amazing, almost uncanny talent for coming up with all the right answers, who, on studying all the facts of the case, draws a particularly wild conclusion: that the killer is in fact a beautiful woman with superhuman powers! (And she could tell all that by the fact that the killer likes to cook. More downright sexism! Pah! ;oP)

Of course, it's not long until Asako's incredible theory is proved to be 100% right: while investigating the seventh murder in the series, of a voluntary teacher of the mentally handicapped, Manabu and Tobitaka accidentally stumble across an eye-witness to the murder, a young lad who was hiding in the closet during the whole thing. He tells them that the serial killer is in fact, yes, you guessed it, a beautiful woman with superhuman powers, who just happens to also be a psychopathic, nymphomaniac cannibal by the name of 'Chi-chan', who only feasts on the brains of people who have 'evil thoughts' because apparently it makes them tastier.

And, isn't it just ever so lucky, Manabu finds a sketch of the killer hidden behind the wall in the school. So he and his partner go to check the missing persons files back at the police headquarters, and find their prime suspect listed there: Chizuru Kashiwagi (Yukiko Okamoto), a college student who went mysteriously missing three days before the first murder took place.

But on the other side of town, the self-same predator Chizuru is sitting in a bar, trying to pick up three men, presumably as ingredients for her next culinary masterpiece. However, despite blood running out of her eyeballs rather unattractively, that doesn't seem to stop the men from taking her back to one of their apartments to try to seduce her, even though the only thing she has on her mind is the dish of the day. She manages with some ease to kill one of the men off; the second intended victim is a little bit more on the ball, though, and fetches her a mortal whack to the bonce with a dumb-bell, before running off to alert the police. However, the third, a young chap called Kimura (Takashi Kashiwabara), is left cowering behind the toilet, waiting for the police... unluckily for him, because Chizuru, dying from that fatal bash on the head, spots her chance to continue her evil career...

Of course, by the time the bumbling cops arrive, they find the murderous woman dying on the floor, but make a shocking discovery: that she doesn't have a brain either! And something strange has happened to the eye-witness Kimura - he seems to have somehow been possessed by Chizuru's evil spirit! However, after performing an autopsy on Chizuru, Dr Akagi reveals a very important clue to Manabu: Chizuru's brains weren't completely gone, but they had shrivelled up in a corner of her skull, and full of ulcers, which would have caused her such immense pain that she would have had to have taken handfuls of narcotics even to be able to walk.

However, soon Manabu starts to get plagued with phone calls from the new perpetrator, Kimura, who leaves a cannibalised victim in a hotel room as a "gift" for Manabu, killed in almost identical fashion to the Chizuru murders... and just as the hapless detectives make the grisly discovery, they receive a phone call from the murderer - who's standing on the roof of the next-door building, taunting them and showing off his superpowers.

But why is Kimura - or more correctly, the evil spirit possessing Kimura - particularly targeting Manabu? The reason is because the spirit is under the impression that Manabu's personality is every bit as evil as his own, despite being kept under restraint, and that the only reason Manabu is a policeman is because he gets off on real-life crime and gore... which is, to a certain extent, true. And during the course of the chase, while Manabu tries to capture Kimura, the cops actually do something right for once and shoot Kimura four times.

But even though that pretty much means the end for Kimura, who will it possess once he buys the farm? Where the heck did it come from in the first place? The spirit won't give up hunting what it thinks is its "perfect carrier", Manabu, so who will it choose to possess in order to get closer to him - Asako, Dr Akagi, the Inspector, or somebody completely different? And how the hell can it be stopped if even the death of its host carrier can't kill it?

Forgettable and self-consciously gore-splattered images are teamed with a pretty nothing soundtrack, and not even the all-round decent quality of the acting can save the rubbishy dialogue and gaping plot-holes of this film. And inventing a handy deus ex machina character like Asako, a remarkable young lady ex-convict who, despite looking and acting like a retarded 12-year-old, seems to be able to psychically come up with all the right clues and answers in the police investigation, just proves my point: Iida's plot-writing is so lame that the only way he can get his daft policemen on the right track is by having a character make miraculously correct guesses. And in the current climate of super-sharp storylines in the genre, that's simply unacceptable.

Still, if it's brainless (literally, in most scenes ;-D) entertainment you're after, you may enjoy Another Heaven: however, be warned that it's really far too lengthy and ponderous to be a good popcorn-and-beer flick. The movie clocks in at a frightening 2 hours and 12 minutes long, thanks to a meandering middle section that doesn't really go anywhere, a tedious drawn-out chase sequence, and a hugely pompous and superfluous ending. But if you dig alien cannibals, daft plotlines, buckets o' blood-and-brains, and bishonen eye-candy, you might like it. I guess the best thing you can say about it is that it's relatively mediocre. However, you'd probably still be better off spending your cash on Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure or Sion Sono's Suicide Circle if you fancy a supernatural-type murder drama, because both of those movies are infinitely superior products to Another Heaven.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 5/10
Chills: 0/10
Violence: 100/10
Braaaaiiins: everywhere, but particularly in the dish of the day - you'll never want spaghetti carbonara again ;)
Explosions: just one big 'un/10
Gore: 200/10
Sexism and Homophobia: altogether offensively way too much for a 21st century film
Confusion: ?????/10
George Iida: you're not fooling me, matey!;-)
Litres of Tomato Ketchup: several major European ketchup lakes

***Recommended only if there's nothing better on telly***

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Another Heaven Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2003

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Jôji Iida
Yosuke Eguchi
Yoshio Harada
Takashi Kashiwabara
Miwako Ichikawa
Yukiko Okamoto
Haruhiko Katô
Tarô Suwa

Links - Mike Bracken's indepth and smart review of the movie - another fine review, and one I certainly agree with - NixFlix give it their best shot, with technical specs and cast/crew info - Del Harvey's review with some small images from the movie - friends and neighbours, be ready to be shocked... this is a game based on the movie. UHHH?! [Japanese only] - we're not kidding you, see?! - a small selection of viewer opinions at Movies Online - watch out for some disastrous spoilers, though - don't say I didn't warn you :-( - loads of images and a positive review... - ...and UHM liked it much better than we did, too :-)

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