Thursday, July 08, 2010

Japan Cuts ’10: Nightmare Detective 2

Kyoichi Kagenuma might not be much, but if you are terrorized by your dreams, he is the one person you can turn to. Of course, he would much prefer to be left alone, but one high school student is desperate for his help in Shinya Tsukamoto’s Nightmare Detective 2 (trailer here), which screens as part of the 2010 Japan Cuts Festival’s “Best of the Unreleased Naughties” focus on films from the last ten years that have yet to be picked up for American theatrical distribution.

Cursed with tremendous psychic sensitivity, Kagenuma can enter other people’s dreams to seek out and alleviate subconscious disturbances. Unfortunately, the Nightmare Detective cannot heal himself. Experiencing nightmares of increasing severity, Kagenuma simply wants to be left alone. However, Yukie Mashiro is persistent. Ever since a taunting incident went too far, she has been plagued by dreams that seem to have a frighteningly real effect on her waking life. When Kagenuma finally relents, it is for his own reasons, rooted in his traumatic childhood.

The second installment of what is considered the most conventionally commercial work of genre rebel Tsukamoto, ND2 is not nearly as graphic as one might expect. Given the subject matter, most viewers will be on-guard for plentiful scenes inviting the question: is this reality or is it still a dream? Yet, the themes of forgiveness and mercy lend the film unexpected depth.

Yui Miura and Hanae Kan are almost shockingly good as the sleep deprived Mashiro and her former victim turned tormentor. Miura covers a particularly wide emotional range as the not-so-innocent victim. Though not an electrifying screen presence, Ryuhei Matsuda also delivers quite effectively in the film’s quiet dramatic moments.

Rest assured, Tsukamoto certainly creates a moody atmosphere and supplies a number of creepy moments. Yet, there is a sense of restraint evident in ND2 deliberately shunned in his bizarre cult Tetsuo series. Frankly, the film is the better for it. While representing the high end of Japanese horror, ND2 should still satisfy fans of the first film and the genre in general. It screens at the Japan Society this coming Wednesday (7/14) as part of the 2010 Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema.