Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Battle Heater (1989)

Today’s selection: Battle Heater (1989, dir. Joji Iida)

Subgenre: Yokai

Available from: BCI

In the yokai tradition, there’s a subset called tsukumo-gami, which are disused inanimate objects infused with a spirit, be they sandals, lanterns, umbrellas, etc – anything old enough could be possessed and come to life. Battle Heater is about such a yokai: a possessed kotatsu. If the idea amuses you, good, since the film is a raucous comedy.

Even if it weren’t for a monster table going around eating the inhabitants of the apartment building where the film is set (at one point prompting a character to build a mecha suit to fight it), the story would still be pretty zany, as it’s populated by characters like a casually suicidal elderly couple, a punk rocker who’s obsessed with his crush’s cuteness, and a pair that’re trying to covertly dispose of a corpse (unrelated to the killer kotatsu) in Weekend At Bernie’s-style sitcom antics. You can tell that the movie’s having fun right off the bat, when a monk senses something ominous, and is immediately smushed by the movie’s title credits falling from the sky, like something one would see in Army of Darkness or The Life of Brian. I’m sort of shocked that Battle Heater didn’t become a sort of major cult sensation in the way that other movies (e.g. Survive Style 5+, Wild Zero) have, but it wasn’t advertised and is fairly under the radar. I’m sure that anyone who does give this movie a try will remember it, and maybe its time has still yet to come (it did take House over 30 years to find its western audience, after all).

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