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Film Review: Another Heaven (Anaza Hevun) (2000)

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SYNOPSIS:

A pair of hard-boiled Tokyo cops are investigating a gruesome murder: after killing the victim, the murderer cut his skull open and cooked his brain in a stew. As they try to track down the killer, they discover that, quite literally, everybody is a suspect. Will they bring the terror to an end, or will they become part of it themselves?

REVIEW:

Tokyo detectives Manabu (Yosuke Eguchi) and Tobiaka (Yoshio Harada) are against a particularly vicious killer with an appetite for the human brain.  With very little to go on they try to make sense of this macabre series of murders and pretty soon come to the conclusion that the killer is not of this world and instead of mere cannibalistic serial killer, the detectives are facing an evil body hopping spirit on a killing spree.

Another Heaven is a semi-serious serial killer film by the director Joji Ida. I say semi-serious because I for one had hard time taking it overly seriously. This was by no means because of the supernatural elements of the story. After all, the idea of body hopping serial killer is not a new one and has been explored more successfully in such films as The Hidden (1987) and Fallen (1998).  My problem with the film lies in its confused nature. The narrative is mishmash of ideas that do not quite tie in together or create a cohesive whole. If the film would have focused purely on one of the aspects of the plot, like the barbaric killer cooking her victim’s brains or the murderous body-hopping spectre, I believe Ida could have created something much more interesting. Instead, neither of those elements link together well enough to make this supernatural murder mystery even a little bit believable.

As if this jumble of plot lines wasn’t enough, Ida has also tried to glue on some sort of morality lesson about the evils of violent entertainment. Unfortunately, like so many other things in this film, this theme is not followed through in the plot line and therefore it just feels like another superficial add-on, contributing furthermore to the messiness of the whole film.

Besides the confusion, the shaky storyline was a major problem for me. There are several occasions the story is moved forward by some sort of “deus ex machina” type situation making the writing feel truly lazy. For example, while the police are perplexed by the identity of the killer and can only theorise about him being a man of sizable build, Manabu’s sometime girlfriend, Asako, comes up with the shockingly accurate theory that the killer must be a beautiful woman, as proven by her unequivocal cooking skills. Lo and behold this of course turns out to be true and helps her beloved Manabu in tracking the killer. It is also very fortuitous that some of the very vital clues on the case just seem to fall into the detective’s laps. Not much police work is needed when the detectives accidentally stumble upon an eye witness, as well as a very accurate sketch of the killer. How very lucky indeed.

All that to one side, Another Heaven does have its saving graces, the biggest being the first host the alien killer chooses to inhabit. Yukiko Okamoto gives a wonderfully unsettling performance as the missing college student Chizuru Kashiwaga, possessed by the body hopping killer. Her brief yet compelling depiction of the otherworldly assassin is truly disturbing and I for one would have liked to have see more of her. Unlike the ‘too cool for school’, overly smug character of Kimura, who the spirit possesses next, Chizuru seemed to truly embody something malicious and inhuman; everything that a good supernatural killer should be. I would go as far as to say that I would have happily watched a whole film about this incarnation of the killer, rather than the patchwork of characters that it ends up being.

While I did not find Another Heaven particularly successful film, it’s not completely hopeless either. If you’re looking for some light entertainment with no deeper substance to it, it might keep you entertained for a while. Equally, if watched with like-minded friends and couple of beers, the cheesier elements of the film may offer some unintentional hilarity.  Just don’t expect an enigmatic thriller to puzzle your brain with. You’ll just end up falling asleep, like I did.

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