Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 2

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The Paramount Vault releases make up the majority of this month’s first time watches: Grim Prairie Tales, The Sender, Shanks and Beneath.

 

Grim Prairie Tales (Wayne Coe – 1990)
An odd anthology film that spends more time with its wrap-around story than the 4 tales spun from it. Granted, when your wrap-around has James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif, I could see why you might want to give them the lion’s share – unless of course what they are given is 1) a fractured and weirdly paced arc and 2) really crappy direction for their line readings. Dourif plays a man riding back to Jacksonville Florida to see his wife (by horse across the prairies – the time period is likely late 1800s) when he encounters Jones after bunking down for the night in the great wide open. After much wide-eyed yelling at each other, they begin to swap stories. The stories – each one being more of a morality/immorality tale rather than anything horrific – are both interesting and kinda dull. Even though the individual tales are no longer than 10-15 minutes each, the pace is glacial…There’s a dryness to them that simply didn’t engage me. And yet, upon reflection, each one tackles its subject (intolerance, lust, hatred/fear, pride) in a fairly unique and non-obvious way. I have to give the film credit for a different approach. If only it were more entertaining…

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Review: Nightmare Detective 2

Nightmare Detective 2 DVD Cover
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Writer: Hisakatsu Kuroki & Shinya Tsukamoto
Producer: Shinya Tsukamoto, Shin’ichi Kawahara, Yumiko Takebe & Takeshi Koide
Starring: Ryûhei Matsuda, Yui Miura, Hanae Kan, Miwako Ichikawa
Year: 2008

Ryûhei Matsuda returns as the titular character, Kyoichi Kagenuma of Shinya Tsukamoto’s Nightmare Detective 2 (Akumu Tantei 2). It has been a few years since I saw the original while attending Toronto After Dark in 2007. Tsukamoto’s most accesible film to date at that time ended up on my top 10 of the year. The original involved an interesting hero battling an enigmatic creepy villan, played by Tsukamoto himself in people nightmares. The movie succeeded because of its creepiness, its strong story an interesting characters. Unlike a lot of directors Tsukamoto, who has never been known for doing things by the book takes the story inward and while the horror and mystery of an attack within dreams is told the film delves deeply into the psyche and origin of Kyoichi.

Nightmare Detective 2

Kyoichi is awoken from a nightmare involving his mother being terrified of him as a child to find Yukie Mashiro (Yui Miura). She begs him for help as she is being haunted in her dreams by another school girl, Yuko (Hanae Kan). Yukie and her two friends bullied Yuko and locked her in a shed. Since that night Yuko has left school but invaded her dreams. Kyoichi wants nothing to do with Yukie as his powers take a great toll on his body and his mind. Slowly over the course of the film Kyoichi discovers through his own dreams and by Yuko’s attempts to gain his help that both Yuko and his mother seem to have suffered dreadful fears when it comes to their friends and families. The Nightmare Detective is drawn into an attempt to save Yukie, Yuko all the while trying to come to terms with his mother’s fear of her own son.

Tsukamoto does not give any easy answers in Nightmare Detective 2. The story of Kyoichi is very emotional and Tsukamoto does not hold back on having Kyochi’s memories warped and mutated by his own fears and regrets. This is a story about how the power the Nightmare Detective has alienates the weilder from everyone else. Kyoichi, Yukie and Yuko are all lonely tragic figures. I will admit that Yuko as the villain is not as disturbing as the killer “O” in the original she is a more compelling tragic figure.

Nightmare Detective 2

As with the original Nightmare Detective 2 is more accesible than some of Tsukamoto’s other films but that does not mean it is a mainstream film. It will challenge you to put the pieces of Kyoichi’s past together as he discovers it himself. It is a creepy and disturbing film yet it has a real touch of heart and caring to it. I for one truly hope that Tsukamoto and Matsuda will return one final time and wrap the story up in a trilogy. I am sure we will be left with as many questions as answers when everything is done but with a character so compelling and Tsukamoto’s unique vision into dreams I for one welcome the challenge of revisiting the Nightmare Detective again.