"Another Heaven is in a class of its own. Whether that class is for honor students or for the kids who like to start fires is something you'll have to decide for yourself."
Another Heaven (2000)
Director: George Iida (Joji Iida)
Producer: Shinya Kawai
Writer: Joji Iida
Cast: Yosuke Eguchi, Akira Emoto, Yoshio Harada, Mikako Ichikawa, Kunihiko Iida, Takashi Kashiwabara, Haruhiko Kato, Yosinori Ko, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Naomasa Musaka, Yukiko Okamoto, Toshi Shioya
Running Time: 131 min.
Plot: A vicious killer, apparently possessing the power to inhabit peoples' bodies, leaves a trail of victims with their brains removed, taunting the two detectives determined to thwart it.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: Mama told me there'd be films like this, there'd be films like this, my mama said...
Much like some of Hong Kong director Herman Yau's work, Another Heaven is a solid and serious movie that's not the least bit ashamed of its ridiculous-sounding premise. Some will enjoy it, and others will wonder what possessed its makers to unleash such a lengthy piece of silliness upon the world. I place myself in the first group, but not without a caveat or two.
Here's how it goes: Hayase Manabu, self-described "crime buff" (as opposed to "detective" or "police officer"; he has his reasons), is assigned to a series of gruesome slayings where the victims' brains have been removed and then added to some recipe or other, such as spaghetti sauce. His partners are Inspector Tobitaka, a grizzled, no-nonsense cop who calls everyone "Ass!", and Dr. Akagi, who has the unenviable task of performing autopsies on the murder victims. He also has unsolicited help from Asako, a childish ex-con who is infatuated with him. Too bad for her that Manabu only has eyes for the striking Dr. Sasamoto, who tends to his wounds after a close encounter with "Something" in one of its numerous incarnations.
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. "Something" is the name Dr. Akagi assigns to the mysterious killer that our two intrepid investigators are tracking; to them, it seems to be a sort of spirit or supernatural presence that travels from person to person, leaving behind both the mutilated corpses of its victims and the lifeless shells of its hosts. "Something" develops an odd fixation on Manabu, and, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary...among other things, it instills its host bodies with phenomenal strength and endurance...it insists that it is nothing but an ordinary human being. How can Manabu keep up with, much less capture, a murderer with abilities like this? And what is he to do when "Something" abandons random targets in favor of (*GASP!*) his friends and allies?
The "body-hopping evil killer" thing has been done before, as in The Hidden and Fallen (starring Kyle MacLachlan and Denzel Washington, respectively), but Another Heaven is in a class of its own. Whether that class is for honor students or for the kids who like to start fires is something you'll have to decide for yourself.
Japanese horror films often steer gloriously clear of Hollywood conventions, but the required disbelief suspension in this particular case will no doubt be a turn-off for many. As its climax ensues, Another Heaven unleashes one of the most off-the-wall, out-of-the-blue, "What the FUCK?!?"-inducing revelations I've ever come across (see also: Ring 0). There are clues (sort of), which you may or may not pick up on (don't worry about it too much), but you'll have to come up with your own "Oh yeah, now it all makes sense" explanation if you really want one, because you won't find any such thing within the film itself.
One could argue that love, be it for a person or a movie or whatever, cannot be forced, but I'm not subscribing to that theory here. I am making a conscious decision to like Another Heaven a great deal. Despite the bizarre aftertaste of The Big Twist, the last few moments of the film are beautifully shot, and the score is quite possibly the most enjoyable I've ever heard in an Asian movie. (I don't often comment on the scores in my reviews because, quite frankly, they usually escape my notice; a sure-fire sign of mediocrity in my musically picky mind.)
Enjoy it, or don't. But either way, don't say I didn't warn you.
NUMSKULL'S RATING: 8/10