Written by Pollo Misterioso
Nightmare Detective plays like an intense dream; things happen that you are not really sure of, some things about it are vaguely familiar, and yet it stays with you after you wake up and you don’t really know why. It is scary, but not really frightening, just haunting.
Part of Dimension Films “Dimension Extreme” collection, the film is a thriller where writer/director Shinya Tsukamoto creates a world based in between dreams and reality, where killings occur within dreams and somehow the killer must be caught.
The film’s groundwork lies in suicide and the difference between killing yourself and having others kill you. If someone is to have thoughts about killing oneself, why not get someone to do it with you? If one wants to commit suicide, but not alone (which is really a contradiction in itself), they can dial “0” to contact a man so that he will die with you. For some reason, with every intention of killing himself as well, our killer (played by Tsukamoto) connects from across the phone in a way that gives him some sort of power as he kills his co-conspirator in their dreams.
What looks to be a suicide to the police is really a murder that occurs in the unconscious world. Our victims are shown being chased and killed, not by their own will, but by a creature, that is unseen, but heard.
One of the head detectives on the case, Keiko Kirishima (Hitomi), is transferred to the detective branch of the police force and this is her first job. She sees the first victim, mangled and sprawled out on her bed next to a pair of scissors. The last number that she had dialed on her phone, happens to be “0”—to later appear on all the victims phones.
Soon after another man is seen calling this anonymous hotline to kill himself. After he is chased through his office building, we see him stabbing himself in bed with his own knife, all while he is asleep.
So is it murder or assisted suicide?
At the beginning of the film we are introduced to an interesting character, played by Ryuhei Matsuda, that can enter dreams, assisting and helping people in trouble. But his disdain for this ability becomes more of a curse, than a unique gift. When Keiko finds out that the only way to find the killer is through dreams, with the help of the Nightmare Detective she enters into his world.
The most intense scenes happen on the phone, as the killer can get through to his victims after they have dialed his number and told him that they want to kill themselves. But most disturbing is the idea that these people wanted to die, but that they are not in control anymore.
The film points out the consequential and often dismissible attitudes towards suicide because the characters are punished for their decisions to take such actions, or to even think of suicide.
Nightmare Detective seems to be just a bloody thriller, but like a bad dream, it makes light of things that you were not very sure that you were even conscious of. It is entertaining and definitely gory, but keeps you thinking more about the act of killing and who is in control, than the killing itself.
The DVD only has two extra features, the most interesting being the “Making of Nightmare Detective” which is a very in depth look into the creation of the film. This includes the director’s long-term commitment to this original idea, to the very specific casting of the film. Definitely worth watching after viewing the film.