Nightmare Detective (2007) dir. Shinya Tsukamoto
Starring: Hitomi, Masanobu Ando, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shinya Tsukamoto
I came into "Nightmare Detective" with no context or knowledge of the story or the filmmaker. I confess only a surface knowledge of the J-Horror genre - regrettably from the American remakes only. So as an unbiased, blank slate screening the film is an awful amateurish mess and poor excuse for a horror film.
So how did this seemingly forgettable and disposable piece of sub-standardness ever beat out other horror films to make it across the world and land on our DVD shelves? After doing some research I realized the director, Shinya Tsukamoto, is the cultish director of the Tetsuo films. I could barely sit through the first "Tetsuo" film, and so it would appear I am not the audience for "Nightmare Detective". But I've seen enough horror films to know this film does not past muster no matter who's directing it.
Japanese pop star Hitomi plays Keiko Kirishima, an academic criminalogist who eagerly wants to make the switch into real-world homicide cases. Her assignment is a strange case of several individuals who have killed themselves in their sleep. Keiko discovers the common link between them all is a mysterious man named "0" whom they all called just before going to bed and falling asleep. Keiko hires a notable dream expert Kyoichi Kagenuma (Ryuhei Matsuda) to aid her in the search. Keiko sets a trap using herself as bait. She calls the same number as the victims hoping the killer would visit her in her dreams, with the Nightmare Detective ready to strike.
Hitori is quite stunning and highly watchable on screen. She holds the film together through the mishmash of stylistic excesses.
Unfortunately that's where the praise ends. There’s no elegance to the film. The choppy editing is awkward and draws unnecessary attention to itself, taking the audience out of the film. A comparable film, "Seven", is not a clean film in any regard, but it's still a polished product. "Nightmare Detective" feels like a low budget indie film by an amateur that is in love with his handheld camera, dissolves, and centre-framing. Tsukamoto also paints a bland a colourless world filled with greys and blacks. A good horror director would know what to do with the shadows and darkness but the colour scheme adds nothing to this film.
And the ridiculous electronic music score cheapens the film even more.
J-Horror fans and the "Tetsuo" cult may find some value in some of the consistencies in technique across Tsukamoto's work, but the plain truth is it would never even see the light of day, if his name wasn't attached.
"Nightmare Detective" is available on DVD from Alliance Films in Canada and Dimension Films/Miramax Home Entertainment in the U.S.