Nightmare Detective 2

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Pusan International Film Festival, Midnight Passion

CANNES -- Although "Nightmare Detective" and its sequel are both directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, they are as different in style as "Nightmare on Elm Street" is from "The Devil's Backbone." Like Part 1, "Nightmare 2" also deals with the paranormal phenomenon of murders committed in the realm of dreams. But Tsukamoto has eschewed the bloodshed and crude shock tactics of the original.

Functioning more as a prequel, the film unravels the secrets of the eponymous hero's past like a detective thriller with rudimentary Freudian logic. Exploring the nature of fear, it probes into characters' psyches to reveal vulnerability rather than evil, eliciting not fear but pity. The horror master of the "Tetsuo" series already has a collectivist fanbase that laps up whatever he makes, but this work has the emotional depth to move beyond such circles to a more mainstream market.

Ryuhei Matsuda has perfected his art as grungy, Hamlet-like hero Kyoichi, who can read minds and enter people's dreams. Yukie (Yui Miura), a high school girl, seeks his help because her classmate Kikukawa (Hanae Kan) has disappeared after Yukie and her friends played a prank on her. She thinks Kikukawa is invading their dreams to terrorize and kill them. Kyoichi becomes intrigued by Kikukawa's resemblance to his mother, who's abnormally high strung and attacks people when scared.

The jumpy editing never shows a complete figure of Kikukawa, and her face remains blurred until the denouement. Her elusiveness is the most unnerving element in the film. Although there is no orgy of Tsukamoto's trademark body-mutation effects to blow one away, some inventive facial distortions occurring in timely moments imbue the atmosphere with the surreal color of Dali's paintings.

When tracing Kyoichi's relationship with his mother, Tsukamoto uses the same flashbacks too many times. However, their accumulative effect is finally felt at the end, when the same scenes are suddenly given a new context with a moving resolution.

Tsukamoto subverts the horror genre by making the 'villain' a timid creature terrified of everything rather than a demonized, vengeful power. He suggests that human nature is scarier than any supernatural being -- the hyper-sensitive protagonists live in fear only because they read people's minds and realize what monsters they are.

Cast: Ryuhei Matsuda, Yui Miura, Hanae Kan, Miwako Ichikawa.
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto.
Screenwriter: Shinya Tsukamoto, Hisakatsu Kuroki.
Executive producer: Kaz Tadshiki.
Producers: Shinya Tsukamoto, Shinichi Kawahara, Takeshi Koide, Yumiko Takebe.
Director of photography: Shinya Tsukamoto, Takayuki Shida.
Production designer:.
Music: Chu Ishikawa.
Sales agent: Movie-Eye Entertainment
No rating, 97 minutes.
Production: Kaijyu Theater Production, Movie-Eye Entertainment.


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