NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE (2006)
The detectives split off into two groups, with one taking on a traditional investigation attempting to hunt down "0", while newcomer detective Kirishima (J-pop star Hitomi) is assigned to approach from a more experimental viewpoint, trying to decipher what happened in their dreams. Her inquest leads her to a recluse known as the Nightmare Detective, a man who is cursed with the ability to enter people’s dreams. With his reluctant help, the Nightmare Detective enters into the dreams of Detective Wakamiya, who has since made contact with "0" and now is under suicide watch. Soon after entering Wakamiya’s dream, the Nightmare Detective discovers that there is a powerful entity in the dreamworld, whose desire to make others kill themselves rivals that of the Nightmare Detective’s desire to kill himself!
With NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE, Shinya Tsukamoto once again takes on almost all key production roles including director, writer, cinematography, editor, art designer, and even the role of the mysterious "0". His singular hand in the creation of the entire film is paramount in giving the movie its unique vision. While at the very core of the film is a death-by-dream motif that is similar to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Tsukamoto takes his ideas of what nightmares would look like if they were caught on celluloid (well in this case HD video) further than Wes Craven would ever dare.
But with the visuals being so utterly fantastic, the story itself and characterization suffers somewhat under the demands of said visuals. Tsukamoto does make a brave choice by making his titular character, played by Ryuhei Matsuda, hate the fact that he is able to enter into dreams, and doesn’t even want to help Kirishima. And while he may look cool with his straight-out-of-manga haircut, he is a completely introverted person who just wants to die, which makes it difficult to root for him despite his protagonist status. J-pop star Hitomi makes her feature film debut as detective Kirishima, and while she does a surprisingly good job as an actress with the bizarre material, the character itself offers little to care for. Shinya Tsukamoto does bring on the goosebumps with his portrayal of "0" with his natural facial features, including his emotionless and dead eyes, chilling the screen whenever he pops up.
NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE is a difficult film to watch for its disturbing visuals and is at times difficult to follow due to the information heavy dialogue (the subtitles sometimes flash by at a brisk pace) and the interpretive way the story unfolds. Still, this is an incredible cerebral horror firlm and a breath of fresh air amidst the deluge of long-haired ghosts that have been plaguing Japan over the past decade. Shinya Tsukamoto, as he enters into his third decade of filmmaking, proves once again that he is still ready and willing to take chances with his movies, and has lost none of his dedication to making sure that cinema stays dangerous.