Another Heaven Review

George Iida (or Jôji Iida) is known for directing Ring: The Spiral (Rasen), the 1998 alternative sequel to Ringu, which controversially took the Ring series in a direction not everyone was entirely pleased about. You can judge for yourself as Artsmagic have also recently released The Spiral on DVD, alongside Iida’s 2000 horror thriller based on his own novel, Another Heaven.

A sadistic serial-killer is scooping out the contents of her victim’s heads after having sex with them, leaving the brains cooking in the kitchen as stew and pasta dishes – much to the revulsion of the police authorities as they turn up at each grisly crime scene. Inspector Hayase knows there is more to the killings than meets the eye - a supernatural element behind the exceptional strength of the killer’s actions. His fellow officers can’t accept such a theory, but when the killer is eventually caught, the killings continue…

Another Heaven starts off at a tremendous pace, drawing you straight into the story with a mixture of horror and humour and it keeps this pace up pretty well throughout the two and a quarter hours of the film. It also successfully manages to maintain a fair balance of gruesome horror, police detective drama, romance, black humour and science fiction with apparent ease – none of disparate elements getting in the way of effectively maintaining the tension generated by a constantly developing plot. The plot itself however and the delivery of it are nothing exceptional – in fact by Japanese horror standards it’s quite average. The film was quite successful in Japan though and spawned a television series, “Another Heaven Eclipse” with the two lead detectives again played by Yosuke Eguchi and Yoshio Harada.

The picture is not great. It’s very soft, too dark and too heavy in contrast. Colours bloom, often making faces appear bright red like a poor VHS transfer (see screen shot below). On the other hand there is no grain and there are very few marks in the actual print, which is clear and steady with little in the way even of artefacts. There is only one moment where there is some very noticeable digital blocking (I don’t think it was an effect), but other than that problems are minimal. The film is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc and the layer change is one of the strangest I have seen, taking place in the middle of a fast camera pan. Apart from a few scenes where it is slightly too dark to see details clearly, it’s more than adequate. If you are particularly picky about your picture quality though, I can’t say this is technically a good transfer. We are talking Tartan standard here.

A standard Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is provided and is quite adequate. There are no real problems, no background noise or harshness – the sound generally remains clear and effective. Optional English subtitles are provided and are generally fine barring a few minor grammatical errors and a few confusingly constructed sentences. These errors should be corrected in the next pressing of the disc.

There is a good detailed biography for George Iida and extensive filmographies for Eguchi, Ichikawa, Harada and Emoto.

Interview with George Iida (36:03)
The quality on the interview isn’t great. By inserting titles with the questions, the lip-sync is completely knocked out. The interview however is interesting, covering Iida’s background in film; his affection for exploitation B-movies, De Palma and Carpenter; his thoughts on the Ring series of films; his development of Another Heaven; his TV and anime work and his future projects.

Trailers for the Artsmagic Warrior releases of all six Lone Wolf & Cub films are presented.

A showreel of covers for Artsmagic’s Warrior and Eastern Cult Cinema series.

There is nothing much in the story here to lift the Another Heaven above the standard genre thriller. It’s not particularly horrific, it’s not particularly gory, it doesn’t do anything unexpected and there are no shock surprises or last minute twists. It follows the formula pretty well, has its moments and delivers a strong well-paced action thriller film that is unlikely to bore you, but unlikely to impress you either. The DVD quality is less than great, but certainly good enough for this kind of film.

6 out of 10
6 out of 10
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out of 10

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