This beyond-ridiculous horror comedy would appear to be Japan’s answer to the Troma movies of the eighties. It’s fairly stylish, and definitely unique, but your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much nonsensical goofiness you’re able to tolerate.
The director of 1989’s BATTLE HEATER (BATORU HITA) was Joji Iida, making his feature filmmaking debut. He’d go onto helm the 1998 RINGU sequel RASEN (a.k.a. RING 4: THE SPIRAL), 2000’s ANOTHER HEAVEN and 2003’s DRAGON HEAD.
BATTLE HEATER was initially released in Japan as BAFUKO SLUMP IN BATTLE HEATER due to the fact that the Japanese punk band of that name appear in the film. Also featured is the veteran actor Akira Emoto, whose long and distinguished career includes roles in such films as THE EEL (1997), THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (2005) and Takeshi Kawamura’s little-seen 1991 masterpiece THE LAST FRANKENSTEIN.
Furuchi, the nerdy apprentice of the eccentric electronic repairman Hama, finds a portable heater one day while foraging in a rubbish heap. It’s a kotatsu, i.e. a table shaped apparatus with four legs and heating coils in its center. Furuchi takes the kotatsu back to his apartment and removes a coin-like seal in order to repair it. Doing so proves quite arduous, with Furuchi inadvertently thrusting a wrench through the wall behind him and stabbing a member of an anti-social punk band residing in the adjacent apartment. Removing the seal also unleashes a demonic force suffusing the kotatsu, which immediately goes into full-fledged killing mode.
First the heater plugs itself into a wall socket and sends an electrical surge through the apartment building, electrocuting an elderly couple who are wrapped in an electric blanket. More killings follow, with the kotatsu becoming increasingly monster-like, complete with a fang-lined mouth and pulsating metallic skin. A woman serial killer and her goofball male cohort living in the building find in the heater a perfect way to dispose of dead bodies, but inevitably wind up devoured by the kotatsu themselves. So too does the punk band.
This leaves Furuchi and Hama. It’s the latter who decides to fight back against the heater’s reign of terror, outfitting himself in a metallic suit of armor and sporting several homemade weapons. Then there’s the issue of the seal Furuchi initially removed from the kotatsu, which is still extant—but will Furuchi and Hama be able to return it to its rightful place on the heater before it devours them?
Joji Iida is a skilled filmmaker who graces this featherweight goof of a film, the first and thus far only killer heater movie, with a real sense of style and some fairly inspired comedy-horror sequences. A bit in which a murderer attempts to cover up his crime by greeting an inquisitive neighbor with the offending corpse(!) is hilarious, even if it, like most everything else in BATTLE HEATER, is thoroughly ludicrous.
The abovementioned attributes do not, however, make up for the oft-incoherent action sequences, frequently unfunny humor and overdone slapstick. In keeping with the ridiculousness of the premise, the film was conceived and executed like a cartoon, complete with whiz-bang sound effects and goofy music. There’s also an opening sequence in which a man is chased and eventually crushed by a giant something that turns out to be the film’s title, written on the side of a flying boulder—which serves to set up a similar gag at the conclusion, when another deadly projectile appears reading “END.” Yes, it’s that kind of movie!
BATTLE HEATER (BATORU HITA)
Director: Joji Iida
Producer: Ichiro Mitta
Screenplay: Joji Iida
Cast: Akira Emoto, Pappara Kawai, Shigeru Muroi, Sanplaza Nakano, Chikau Sato, Yasuko Tomita