Battle Heater (1990)
By: CJ on April 28, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Region 2, PAL. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. Artsmagic (UK). 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: George Lida
Starring: Pappara Kawai, Akira Emoto, Kaoru Okunuki and Bakufu-Slump
Tagline:'It's fuelled by blood'
Country: Japan
AKA: Battle Heater: Kotatsu
Another offering from Artsmagic in the form of George Iida's (Joji Iida) truly bizarre Battle Heater. Lida, known to audiences through his films Another Heaven and The Spiral (Rasen) unleashes an astonishingly oddball film this time around.

Where to begin? Well, the heart of the story centres around Furuchi who has acquired an electric room heater (known as a Kotatsu), but this is no ordinary room heater; this one possesses a malignant spirit that thrives on the blood of human beings. This is not all there is to the film though, as it also chronicles the lives of the apartment where Furuchi lives – and what an array of eccentric characters they are too! There is the old man who keeps having long lapses of silences whilst in mid-conversation; the cyberpunk-style kids who play in a rock band; the cheating wife who has carved her husband in half, and keeps the upper half standing upright in a bowl - and not forgetting Furuchi's boss who habitually administers Furuchi with electric shocks for no apparent reason whatsoever. As you can see, the film is populated with a variety of colourful characters, which keep things interesting. However, there were several moments throughout the film that left me scratching my head in bemused puzzlement, but it's these absurdities that make me go back for more, where Asian cinema is concerned. Then again, I've always been a strange chap…

Despite the central concept, the film is not a bloodbath; it plays rather like an eccentric black comedy. It had me laughing in several places (and yes, it was intentional humour on the part of the filmmakers) – and there's not much that has me laughing, so the film scores points for that alone.

It wouldn't really be fair of me to give too much of the story away, as this would spoil the fun for potential viewers. All I can really do is recommend that you see this for yourself, as whatever I write will come nowhere near to being able to properly convey how demented this flick is. George Lida actually manages to take this rather silly idea and turn it into something very watchable and surprisingly entertaining. He ably manages to take all the various strands of the story and weave it into a cohesive whole, which is quite impressive considering how much is going on throughout the film. It's great fun and highly recommended – though it may well be a little too bizarre and leftfield for some viewer's tastes. I enjoyed it immensely though, if that's any recommendation.
Artsmagic have done a very fine job with the transfer; the colours are vivid and stable throughout, and the blacks are solid and free from digital 'smearing'. The image is as good as you would expect from a low-budget Asian film (also obviously shot on digital video). The film is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1, but looks very nice nonetheless.
The audio is presented in 2-channel Dolby Digital and is clear and free from any defects. The dialogue is clear and crisp and the music is rendered pleasingly. No complaints in this department.
Extra Features
The disc comes with an on-camera interview with director George Lida which is informative and interesting. However, I did notice that the audio is out-of-synch, but since the interview is presented with subtitles, it didn't present too much of a distraction. Artsmagic need to take note of this though and watch out for this potential problem on future releases. Also provided are filmographies and biographies.

At least Artsmagic have taken the trouble to furnish the disc with a smattering with extras, which can only be a good thing.
The Verdict
An exceptionally bizarre film, even by Asian standards, and yet strangely compelling and highly entertaining. The actors perform their roles well and the intentional humour is actually very funny – albeit very black humour. This won't be to everyone's liking, especially those who prefer more conventional movies, but if you fancy something a little different, then give it a try. You never know – you might enjoy it! In summarising, I would say that I found the film hugely entertaining and a real hoot. It won't exactly stretch your brain-cells, but it may give you a laugh. I think of far worse ways to spend 90-odd-minutes of my time than in the company of this surreal slice of eastern cinema.
Movie Score
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