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Another Heaven
cast: Yosuke Eguchi, Miwako Ichikawa, Yoshio Harada, Yasuko Matsuyuki, and Yukiko Okamoto

writer and director: Jôji 'George' Ilda

132 minutes (18) 2000
widescreen ratio 16:9
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
At the scene of a murder in Tokyo, there's a literally empty-headed corpse, and several cops remark upon the kitchen's "nice smell" coming from a cooking pot, before they discover that it's not a regular stew left on the stove, it's the victim's brain. Young detective Manabu Hayase (Yosuke Eguchi) soon becomes obsessed with this gruesome cannibal case after yet more deaths occur, and the murderer starts leaving ghastly "tokens" for ex-crime buff Manabu (who's keen on UFOs), much to the disgust and consternation of his rigidly disbelieving partner Tobitaka (Yoshio Harada). Police paranoia endangers the beautiful Dr Sasamoto (Yasuko Matsuyuki) as a suspect, but Manabu's investigation stalls when he finds that the clearly superhuman murderer is capable of switching bodies, and threatening his kooky student girlfriend Asako (Miwako Ichikawa)...
   Determinedly low-key and almost without special effects, Another Heaven is a quasi-supernatural Japanese variation on cult sci-fi serial killer thriller The Hidden (1987), which makes up for its lack of familiar urban action genre appeal with fascinatingly offbeat main characters, and a rather cod-philosophical take on the nature of evil. The characters of the protagonists and the varied incarnations of their chameleonic nemesis are all very well drawn and so finely detailed, with that essential aspect of all great fictional intrigues, in that they seem to have a life of their own beyond the narrative. However, unfortunately, this also means that the film's thriller plot gets thoroughly sandbagged during the middle of its two-plus hours running time with angst ridden domestic scenes focused wholly on relationships and wryly nuanced comment on doomed romantic entanglements.
   Although it fails to match the tensions and dark mystique of Gregory Hoblit's marvellous Fallen (1998), Another Heaven maintains our interest by exploring both cynical and naive attitudes, and showing how the emergence of an absolute malevolence in a secular world is wondrous and strangely illuminating, despite all the risks to life and limb.
   DVD extras include a filmed interview with the director (subtitled, in non-sync sound), biographies and filmographies, artwork showreel, trailers and previews.

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