The world’s nightmares, on one man’s shoulders.
Terrifying acts inflicted on fellow student Kikukawa are about to have deadly consequences for Yukie and her friends. Now she can only pray that The Nightmare Detective will live up to his reputation and stop the events which have been set in motion.
Be it as it may be, I think I’ve grown into being a Shinya Tsukamoto fanboy over the years. I simply haven’t seen one bad film by the man yet. And fans of Asian cinema will most likely concur with me on this. While his older, more outrageous films are just as shocking as they are fun, his later work developed into more thought-provoking, equally disturbing at times, fantastic cinema. You don’t even have to like his films, but the least anyone can say is that they are intriguing and interesting.
In 2008 Tsukamoto presented us with Nightmare Detective (aka Akumu Tantei), introducing an unlikely hero in the form of Kyoichi Kagenuma (Ryuhei Matsuda), a troubled young man who has the ability of entering other people’s dreams, or in this case nightmares. While the first Nightmare Detective was a solid supernatural serial killer/slasher entry, this sequel is injected with a completely new storyline, resulting on the one hand in a slightly gentler film and on the other: An even more discomforting picture on a psychological level.
Ryuhei Matsuda reprises his role as the Nightmare Detective, but this time his character feels much more tormented. While filling his days with trying to understand personal demons from the past and contemplating thoughts of suicide to end this dubious ability he has been gifted with, his life will take another meaningful turn when he is contacted by Yukie. She and her friends once played a cruel joke on a fellow student, Kikukawa, and now she is plagued by horrible nightmares in which her friends die one by one. When her friends start dying of unnatural causes in real life, Yukie fears she’ll be next.
In my opinion, Nightmare Detective 2 surpasses its predecessor on almost every level. For one thing, though the film has a slightly more poetic feel to it (as opposed to the dark and chaotic nature of the original), it’s laden with depression and grief, adding a foreboding atmosphere that grows stronger as the film progresses. While the first film had a more straightforward plot (albeit still following Tsukamoto‘s puzzling logic at times), now the story features a well-balanced duality. When Kyoichi starts to learn more about the origin of Yukie’s nightmares, he discovers parallels with his own past which will eventually lead to more discoveries concerning the mystery of his own, cursed persona.
Nighmare Detective 2 is all about unexplainable things that inflict sheer terror on human beings and how they leave victims psychologically devastated. It is as much a true horror film as it is a psychological drama. Rest assured, certain scenes do get scary at times, though expect a bit more subtlety this time. Don’t expect things clearly spelled out for you either, but more a visual language that explains things to a satisfying degree. Through Kyoichi’s character Tsukamoto succesfully tries to define the nature of terror – or at least providing one specific insight to it for Kyoichi – and it surprisingly results in a film that’s far more sophisticated than anyone could expect from a sequel.
Nighmare Detective 2 can actually be viewed as a stand alone film (due to the new storyline), however, watching the original first is always advisable (if only it was to better understand the weight of Matsuda‘s character). And for once I’d love to see another sequel made (only with Shinya Tsukamoto at the helm, of course). Kyoichi Kagenuma is by far one of the most original and intriguing anti-hero characters I’ve seen coming out of Asian cinema over the last few years. The possibilities of developing his character seem limitless, and with this second film being very different in tone, I’m most interested in seeing what a third film would bring us.
Maybe a Nightmare Detective Trilogy would be a nice way to wrap things up?