Nightmare Detective (2006)


After five releases from the Weinsteins' Dimension Extreme label, I'm starting to feel pretty good about the outfit. Bob Weinstein has always been known as a guy who can sniff out high-end genre material, and the DE slate has managed to bear that assertion out ... for the most part. (I'm a fan of Adam Mason's Broken, John King's Black Sheep, John Hensleigh's Welcome to the Jungle, and Jamie Blanks' Storm Warning) So with titles like Automaton Transfusion, 13: Game of Death, and (the fantastic) Inside on the Extreme slate, we can turn our sights to their sixth release: The strange Japanese import known as Nightmare Detective.

More of a standard cop thriller (with a liberal dose of supernatural spooks and grungy gore tossed into the mix) than an outright horror flick, Nightmare Detective feels a lot like ... well, many things.

1. An Asian combination platter of Dreamscape, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and just about every technology-obsessed J-horror flick you can think of.

2. A horror short that got spliced into a somewhat compelling detective story.

3. A feature-length pilot episode of a series about a detective and a "nightmare detective" who set out to thwart the evil that dwells in mens' dreams.

Basically, this crazy serial killer has the power to "connect" with the suicidal, and with the help of a cell phone, he has no trouble convincing his victims that they should slash themselves to death while sleeping. Needless to say, it doesn't take long before the authorities get involved. Enter a lovely young lady cop, fresh from a desk job and under a lot of pressure to nail her first case. She's stumped. But eventually she teams up with a (rather miserable and strangely reluctant) "nightmare detective," who can enter the dreams of the killer's would-be victims and ... do something ... to figure out who the killer is ... I think. It's all very familiar and confusing at the same time.

The leads (Ryuhei Matsuda as the dream detective and a gal called Hitomi as the "real world" detective) deliver some fine work on their own, but their characters have next to no chemistry together, which makes their big partnership at the end a little "meh." As the psychic lunatic dubbed "0," Shinya Tsukamoto is suitably creepy, although he's hardly one of the most memorable horror villains you'll come across. Mr. Tsukamoto is also the writer and director, apparently, and when he's not knee-deep in generic-yet-vague plot constructions, he's able to deliver a half-decent handful of visual shocks. But by the time the horror portion of the pay-off is delivered, it feels like just a bit too little, too late. Plus, really, the whole "forced suicide" thing just isn't as scary to me as it apparently is to everyone in Japan.

So while it's certainly not a terrible little genre concoction, I'm scratching my head and wondering precisely what the Weinstein boys saw in this one. I suppose there's just enough creepy visuals to fill an enticing trailer, but I'm guessing the horror fans will find this one something of a slight disappointment. Those who do dig the flick will be pleased to note that there's an hour-long making-of documentary included on the DVD. You'll need the English subtitles, but it's definitely a solid little inclusion.