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Joji Iida’s “Another Heaven” is a standard “X-Files”-inspired movie about cops chasing a more-than-human killer, but it makes the mistake of spending too much time trying to be deeper than it is capable. The Japanese film concerns a pair of cops, the young and stoic Manabu (Yosuke Eguchi) and his partner, the veteran Tobitaka (Yoshio Harada), as they pursue a killer that can take over human bodies to elude capture.
Borrowing heavily from 1987’s “The Hidden”, about an alien cop who teams up with a human cop to chase down a fugitive creature addicted to what human brains can offer him, “Another Heaven” opens conventionally enough. Detectives Manabu and Tobitaka are chasing a killer who is leaving behind a bloody trail of corpses because the act of killing is what turns the killer on. Also, the killer is eating the brains of its victims ala Hannibal Lector! It soon becomes apparent to the open-minded Manabu that they may be dealing with something other than human, but that’s easier thought of than explained to his fellow cops.
Like “The Hidden”, the supernatural killer is parasitic in nature, literally leeching off the life force of its human host and moving on to a new victim when it’s done. To its credit, “Another Heaven” does address the absurdity of its own premise; the detectives, including Manabu, never states out loud that something supernatural is going around having sex with men, killing them, and then digging out their brain to make a tasty stew. Even when Manabu and Tobitaka eventually accept the unnatural explanation, they never try to convince the other detectives, knowing how crazy they’ll sound. (Remember all those episodes where Mulder runs off at the mouth about aliens or brain-sucking creatures?)
The most interesting aspect of “Another Heaven” is Manabu’s relationship with Asako (Miwako Ichikawa), an ex-con he once helped out, and who is now in love with him. While Manabu has some feelings for Asako, it’s nothing close to her devotion to him. While Manabu attempts to disengage himself from Asako’s persistent presence, the film uses Asako’s childlike approach to the world to help move the plot forward. Iida relies on Asako’s spurning of full adulthood to explain how she can so easily wrap her mind around the supernatural elements of Manabu’s case. It’s through her that Manabu begins to believe in the impossible.
Despite its polished and slick production, “Another Heaven” is perhaps about 30 minutes too long for its own good. Whereas the first hour is a fast-paced thriller, the second half seems to get lost in its attempts to set up red herrings. Also, Iida might have done better to continue the movie’s breezy pace instead of stopping everything for about 20 minutes for a sequence involving Manabu and a pretty doctor. While the doctor does fit into an exciting scene in the second half, she’s not integral enough to the movie to spend so much time with her character.
What it all boils down to is that “Another Heaven” has the feeling of a two-part episode of “X-Files.” The direction and screenplay by Iida is not innovative or intriguing enough to warrant a big budget production, which “Heaven” obviously is. Also, the movie’s explanation as to the creature’s origins, and its intentions, is a little too hard to swallow. Not only that, but it comes completely out of left field, without a single hint being offered before the big revelation. Sometimes it’s just better to make a movie about an evil creature that gets off on killing people and leave it at that.
Joji Iida (director) / Joji Iida (screenplay)
CAST: Yosuke Eguchi …. Manabu Hayase
Yoshio Harada …. Detective Tobitaka
Miwako Ichikawa …. Asako