July 21, 2008

LONG DREAM (2000) - more Higuchinsky and Junji Ito

(2000, Japan, Nagai yume)

After the unique and surreal horror film Uzumaki, I quickly sought out Long Dream. It’s from the same director, Higuchinsky, it’s also based on a Junji Ito manga, and it also features Eriko Hatsune, the star of Uzumaki. Long Dream has finally been released on DVD in the US (by Tidepoint), but don’t expect another Uzumaki

In a weird psychiatric hospital, two doctors are struggling with two patients, one obsessed with her own mortality, the other with sleep problems. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement, because when he sleeps, years of his life pass by. His 'long dreams' are getting longer, and starting to affect his physical appearance.

This is very low budget and shot on video. IMDB has it listed as a ‘TV’ project, though it's presented widescreen. The acting is good enough and there’s some interesting make-up effects, but most of the action, including a bloody murder, takes place offscreen, and the long dreams of the title, are only described...

While this should be the stuff of nightmares, the writer has tried to imagine some ghastly tortures, but ended up sounding comical, like a dream about living for years without a toilet! Add to that, the weird make-up may be faithful to the manga (which I’ve not seen), but it looks like a Mars Attacks alien with hair-loss. On top of that is a truly nasty, cheap ‘horror’ synth soundtrack.

While Long Dream tries to explore the consequences of endless nightmares, there’s too many flashbacks of a lost love. Eriko Hatsune (recently the star of Apartment 1303) is pretty enough, but in slow-motion twirling an umbrella, she’s completely wasted, and her mysterious scenes are over-repeated to deaden the pace further.

This is a curious companion piece to the phenomenal Uzumaki, if only to contrast how that film got everything so right. But Long Dream should have stayed a manga. It’s far too long, even at only 58 minutes.

The Japanese movie experts at Snowblood Apple liked it a lot more. There's a full plot description and plenty of screengrabs there.

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