As the title character in childhood flashback sits for minutes at a time on the floor while his mom quietly cooks hamburgers I’m thinking that Tsukamoto is punishing the people (fans? studio?) who insisted on a sequel to the great Nightmare Detective. I didn’t ask for this, just enjoyed the first one and trusted the director enough to watch another, but he gave me some bullshit, reminiscent of Noriko’s Dinner Table following Suicide Circle (fortunately not quite that bad).

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Seems like horror series usually save the long, unnecessary backstory scenes for part three (or for the remake, in Halloween‘s case), but we’re gonna explore the ND’s troubled past right here in part two, making a third movie unnecessary. His mom was psychic, became afraid of everything and everybody including her own son, and finally hung herself. ND can hear thoughts as well, but he’s less afraid than perpetually miserable. Somehow that two-sentence backstory takes up half the screen time, mostly through ND’s dream sequences which don’t do much to build atmosphere or further character development, but just begin to hang around and repeat themselves.

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Meanwhile some high-school girls (led by Yukie) terrify another girl Kikukawa (Hanae Kan, a star at 11 in Pistol Opera then the unrelated “family member” in Nobody Knows) who proceeds to haunt them Elm Street style. ND is interested because Kikukawa has the same fear issues as his late mother, gets belatedly involved after the deaths of two girls.

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At least Shinya’s got enough energy and interest to pull off a mysterious dream-murder scene among all the boredom and backstory. Yukie and friend Mutsumi nod off in class and dream a restroom in the gymnasium. K. appears, face hidden, walks backwards towards them and tosses a glass of water into Mutsumi’s face. Y. awakens, sees M.’s head has fallen through her school desk. Shades of Elm St. 4 minus the fumbled inhaler and sucking-face joke.

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Same video look but little of the epilepsy camerawork of the action scenes in part 1. Some cool imagery near the end, especially the N.D. stepping through Yukie’s body, dropping it like a rubber suit (which in fact it is), entering her dream to confront the out-of-control Kikukawa.

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The two stars of Big Bang Love: Juvenile A are back – Ryuhei Matsuda (the weak hero) as the titular Nightmare Detective and Masanobu Ando (tattooed superdude) as a curly-haired regular detective. It would seem like an inversion of their roles in the other film, except amazingly it’s not – the title character is weaker than everyone else in this movie. He has the power (at great personal risk) to enter the nightmares of others, but not to do anything else, so once inside he’s just bitter and afraid. It’d be kind of hilarious but there were always too many terrifying blurs of action to laugh.

your (very upset) nightmare detective:
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I suppose our main character is Keiko (played by singularly-named Hitomi). That’s her at the bottom warming her hands on a giant plastic brain-looking creature. Keiko works with rookie Wakamiya (Masanobu Ando) under chief Sekiya (Ren Osugi of MPD Psycho and Achilles and the Tortoise). Initially Keiko has a strained relationship with the others, since she formerly worked a desk job and doesn’t handle crime scenes well but all that’s forgotten when the shit goes down.

Ando and Osugi:
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Movie has a very video look, a la Haze or MPD Psycho. The horror action is never seen – pieces of blades or the color red may be glimpsed, but mostly you know that a fast, screaming blur is approaching the character, something unstoppable and terrifying (Tetsuo-like).

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The screaming blur is actually nightmare terrorist/suicide-assistance provider Zero (played by our director), who takes phone calls from depressed people then comes to slaughter them in their dreams, causing them to kill themselves (all with stabbing implements, I believe) in reality while still sleeping. He’s sort of a Freddy Krueger for hire. After a couple of people die, Wakamiya dials Zero (ha) as part of the investigation and ends up suffering the same fate, telling Keiko as he awakens “I didn’t even realize that I wanted to die.”

Zero/Shinya Tsukamoto:
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So Kagenuma, the nightmare detective, is drawn quite unwillingly into the investigation, more than halfway through the movie. He turns out to be juuust enough of a hero to get the job done, actually rushing the villain in a fit of bravery. Keiko, having dialed up Zero herself leading to a three-way battle inside her head, decides to live after all.

Tsukamoto: “The killer appears to be revealing the true terror of death to the willing.”

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Much of the online writing on this movie mentions the crappy performance of Hitomi in the lead role. I guess I just figured she was your typical buttoned-up brainiac movie detective and wasn’t supposed to emote. Or I was spending all my energy thinking “where is the nightmare detective? why is he barely in the movie?” From the look of the trailer, the upcoming sequel looks quieter, more contemplative, with less violent stabbing. This was great – Tsukamoto’s movies seem to get better and better – so I’m looking forward to it.

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Haze.

A complete nightmare, like Cube without any light or thought or the retard. Man wakes up in underground tunnels, finds his teeth wrapped around a pipe, crawls through water surrounded by blood and severed limbs. Eventually finds a woman stuck there too. Tries to escape with her, and he makes it out… but finds her dead after he escapes. Suddenly he’s an old man and they’re together then he’s alone again.

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Strangely moving… a true horror movie, terrifying, sad and thoughtful. Ambiguous in an interesting way, not a frustrating one. Our man (played by director Tsukamoto) falls asleep, awakens, has an identity crisis, may be dreaming the whole thing, may have committed murder, but at one point in the future or present, he was happy with the woman he loved, watching fireworks. Time just melts in this movie. Would like to see again. Has been wrongly compared to the recent gorefest torture movies like Hostel, actually rises far above those. I hate that I ended up liking Tsukamoto so much… may have to someday reassess the headachey mess that was Tetsuo The Iron Man.

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