MARCH 8, 2008
If there’s one thing I hate about movies with dream sequences, it’s that the dreams are always designed to try to be passed off as real, so that it’s a surprise when they wake up. But if you think about it, this means that the people are having the most mundane fucking dreams in human history. When I dream, absolutely nothing about it makes any logical sense, which is kind of the appeal of dreams. So it’s nice to see a movie like Nightmare Detective (aka Akumu Tantei), because they are not crippled by this filmmaking cliché, and thus the dream sequences actually resemble real dreams.
For example, one guy is killed in a room that is jampacked with bicycles. There’s at least a thousand of the damn things all around him, piled together. THAT’S a dream image! And then he’s killed by a lightning quick monster straight out of Clive Barker’s Tortured Souls toy line.
That kill is one of the many gore/makeup highlights in the film, all of which are highly impressive and more than make up for the fact that the movie doesn’t make a lick of sense, even by J-horror standards. Couldn’t tell you what was going on at any point during the last half hour, but I was still highly entertained and impressed by the technical side of things.
My only complaint is that director Shinya Tsukamoto films everything tight. This is fine for the most part, but some scenes it makes it impossible to tell what is going on. There’s a scene in the climax where the title character saves the heroine, and I haven’t the slightest clue where he even came from! I also can’t tell what exactly he is doing to help. Zoom out, brother Tsukamoto!
Speaking of the “title character”, I’m surprised how little he is in the film during the first half. Most of the time we are with Keiko (the beautiful Hitomi). She’s kind of interesting, but not as much as a guy who can enter nightmares (he doesn’t really do any detective work either, but that’s OK). Hopefully in the sequel (which is already complete) he takes more of a central role throughout the film, not just the climax (incidentally, earlier today I watched Dr. No, aka the first Bond film, in which the character of Dr. No only shows up in the final 20 minutes).
I also got a few laughs during the film. The opening seems to be making fun of other J-horror movies (a guy has a nightmare about long black/wet hair, and it is dismissed), and there’s a scene where the Detective attempts to enter a dream by doing this sort of hypnotic suggestion thing. “There’s a polar bear on a bridge, eating a bowl of grasshoppers,” he says to the sleeping guy. He then adds: “It’s annoying.” Hahahaha. I dunno, I think if I saw a polar bear eating a bowl of ANYTHING on a bridge, annoyance wouldn’t be my first feeling. I’d probably just make Lost references (and thus annoy everyone around me).
Like just about all Asian horror films, it’s about 10 minutes too long (seriously guys, do you have some sort of phobia for 95-ish minute running times?), but it’s quite visually stunning and pretty original. Definitely recommended.
What say you?