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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   Another Heaven  


Another Heaven

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Japanese Title: Anazahevun
Director: Iida Joji
Writing Credits: Iida Joji
Cast: Eguchi Yosuke, Ichikawa Miwako, Kahiwabara Takashi,
Genre: Crime drama horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Year Released: 2000
Runtime: 132 min
Rating: * * (out of four stars)

Another Heaven is yet another Japanese horror/thriller film that has recently been released in Singapore, but unlike movies like The Ring and Kakashi, Another Heaven attempts to blend sci-fi, horror and a detective movie together, deviating a little from the usual "female ghost" concept of Japanese horror films. Unfortunately, Another Heaven isn’t very successful in its attempt, and the movie has more unintentional laughs than chills in it. It also runs a dreadfully long 140 minutes, and probably would have done better if judiciously edited to run under two hours.

A series of gory homicides occur in Japan, where the heads of the victims are cut open, and the brains apparently removed. Although the evidence largely points to an assailant who is very powerful, certain pieces of evidence don’t match this profile. Detectives Manabu (Yosuke Eguchi) and Tobikata (Yoshio Harada) are put on the case, and they are baffled by the serial murders. What’s more intriguing is that the murders seem to be committed by a number of people, and as soon as the duo think they’ve gotten the right person, another murder is committed elsewhere. Asako (Miwako Ichikawa), Manabu’s ex-girlfriend, is also unwittingly embroiled in the case, as her constant hovering around Manabu means she gets more clued into the case than she should have been. When the truth is revealed, however, the trio discovers that they have gotten more than they bargained for.

Although Another Heaven opens with a few pretty gory scenes, there isn’t really anything innately horrifying about the entire premise of the film. In fact, the proceedings quickly turn farcical, and by the time the first few murders are over, the body count in the show almost totally stops until near the end of the film. This in itself may not be a flaw, but nothing much actually happens in the middle section, and coupled with the length of Another Heaven, it’s all too easy to lose interest in the film. Director Joji (George) Iida also throws many obvious red herrings in the audience’s way, which would have been interesting if the plot was more meandering. As it is, Another Heaven’s plot does not hold many surprises, and even the most disinterested viewer would be able to make intelligent guesses on what is actually transpiring.

The film also makes the mistake of revealing the identity of the real killer too early in the film, and then follows the revelation with another reel of exposition and thrill-less action. In fact, the conclusion came after such a long wait that I had ceased to care about any of the characters left in the film, and was only glad that the film was finally over. The denouement is also slightly ambiguous, and Joji never actually explains how exactly the killer came about. The actors give passable performances, but no one actor stands out – Miwako Ichikawa is the only more memorable character, and that is due largely to the way she looks more than anything else. Although there are some good touches in the film (for example, certain characters shedding blood instead of tears), too much chaff bogs Another Heaven down, and coupled with some heavy censoring of pivotal gory moments, it is a film that leaves much to be desired.

Final Word: A film that probably would have done better as an episode in The X-Files.