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Battle Heater
cast: Kawai Pappara, Akira Emoto, Kaoru Okunuki, Goro Kishitani, and Shigeru Muroi

writer and director: George Iida

93 minutes (12) 1990 widescreen ratio 16:9
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
This somewhat haphazardly entertaining cross-genre movie aims to please with a commendable mixing of witty sitcom plot and technofear sci-fi fantasy elements, presented very much in the familiar 'anything goes' style of manga narratives.
   Furuchi (Kawai Pappara) is a scavenging assistant and downtrodden sidekick to electrician and eccentric repairman Hama (Akira Emoto). When Furuchi finds a discarded "Kotatsu" - a peculiarly Japanese domestic appliance (basically a square 'coffee table' with a built-in electric heater, that's usually covered with a quilt for people to sit under) - he happily takes it home to his small and cluttered room. But little does he suspect that it is host to a seemingly demonic force that will eventually threaten the lives of everyone in his apartment block. Among the ferocious and man-eating Kotatsu's victims are Furuchi's neighbour, wannabe rock singer Sabii (Goro Kishitani), the leader of an obnoxious punk band that bully Furuchi - after he accidentally stabs one of them, while the ambitious Sabii later attempts to seduce Furuchi's girlfriend Kurumi (Kaoru Okunuki), because she's the heiress to a major record company. Also in residence is adulterous wife turned murderess Hideko (Shigeru Muroi), who has started to carve up the fixedly grinning corpse of her cuckold husband but is having great trouble disposing of the remains, and a doddering elderly couple (providing well-timed lightweight comic relief from the cheapo monster movie effects and relentless black comedy horrors) who have devised a clever means of automatically induced hibernation for those freezing winter nights. The whole building eventually becomes like a combat zone, as the rogue (and perhaps 'alien' infected?) Kotatsu embarks on a vampiric rampage after overfeeding on the local electricity supply, prompting a rescue mission for heroic inventor Hama, wearing his homemade suit of mechanised armour...
   Like talking military robot Number Five in Short Circuit (1986), the Kotatsu spontaneously comes to life (though thankfully without the irritating cartoonish chatter!), and menaces all and sundry with its carnivorous tendencies, much like the killer-fridge in cult video favourite The Refrigerator (1991). Although much of the delightfully wacky Japanese humour in Battle Heater is pleasant, not all the in-jokes travel well, so there are several culturally specific gags that may leave occidental viewers frowning or scratching their heads with puzzlement. Niggles aside, this a largely appealing comedy thriller that deserves your attention, and will surely enhance the growing reputation of young director Jôji 'George' Iida, the maker of underrated Ring spinoff The Spiral, and Another Heaven.
   DVD extras: filmed interview with the director, text-only biographies and filmographies of stars and filmmaker, artwork showreel.

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