Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Starring: Yoshio Harada, Reiko Hitomi, Masanobu Ando
- Featurette: The Making Of Nightmare Detective
- Theatrical Trailer
Released by: Weinstein Company
My Advice: Rent It if you like J-Horror
Tokyo Detective Keiko Kirishima’s (Hitomi) first case is a rough one. Two people that seemingly killed themselves while they slept. They also have cell phones in their hands, their last call to someone called “0” (Tsukamoto). Since this case is more unusual than your standard whodunit, Kirishima and her partner Wakamiya (Ando) are sent to find a consultant. They track down a so-called nightmare detective (Harada), but this psychic sees his abilities more as a curse than a gift. He picks up all the crap people think and he’s scared of the dream realm he can enter but may not be able to leave. Even with his help, Wakamiya becomes 0’s next bloody victim. Kirishima is now bound and determined to stop 0, with or without the nightmare detective’s help. Even if it kills her.
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From the synopsis, this sounds like your typical straight to DVD supernatural thriller. However, there is a lot more going on in this film. Japan has had a long cultural tradition of suicide. Even now, the country has one of the largest suicide rates in the industrialized world. But in the movie, the victims usually run when 0 attacks them. It’s one thing to decide to take your own life, but the director is showing that 0 is a monster not just because he killing people, he is taking away their choice for his own ends. Tsukamoto creates scenes of isolation and oppression that compliment what the characters are experiencing. You see the familiar Tokyo empty of the city crowds and with some artistic cinematography, it create an eerie atmosphere. Especially for the the Japanese who are used to seeing a bustling live city.
Another interesting choice the director makes is he plays the antagonist, 0. Most actor/directors usually play the hero, the main focus of the story. But Tsukamoto doesn’t have the ego some have and is willing to play an interesting if evil character. Even more important, 0 spends most of the time as a voice on a cell phone, requiring him to convey the character strictly though voice, not an easy task. His take on the Nightmare Detective is also interesting. Misanthropic and suicidal, he’s what I would imagine a untrained psychic to be like. Being to hear all the flotsam and jetsam of everyone’s thoughts would drive me near the edge too. His lack of confidence about his abilities along with the emotional baggage he carries adds more weight to his decisions to enter the dream realm. Detective Kirishima’s character is a little more problematic. She presents a strong exterior to hey fellow officers but she has fears of her own that she is not dealing with well. But she doesn’t convey this as well as she could. However, I contribute this to lack of experience than lack of talent.
There’s only one feature, but it’s a whopper. The Making Of Nightmare Detective is quite involved with extensive interviews with the director and the cast. It’s interesting to see how Tsukamoto was inspired from dreams and childhood fears he had to make this movie. However, the initial concept involved zombies and a lot of running. You can the evolution from that initial concept to the finished product. Tsukamoto is also a fan of practical effects, limiting CGI to what is absolutely necessary. He even has his stars perform in an pool for some of the dream sequences. The behind the scenes documentary is definitely a cut above what you usually get on these discs.
While some J-horror fans might not be happy with the toned down gore, the slick style and unusual themes will make most happy. Those new to this genre should rent it, but be aware that you not get everything going on. A lot like life.