Review © Mandi Apple, 2003.

Directed by Higuchinsky, 2000, 58 mins. starring Horiuchi Masami, Kashiwabara Shuuji, Tsugumi, Eriko Hatsune and Tsuda Kenjirou. Based on a Junji Ito manga, "Itou Junji Kyoufu Collection: Nagai yume" originally published by Asahi Sonorama.

After the enormous critical and public success in 2000 of Uzumaki, based on Junji Ito's tour-de-force horror manga series and directed by the frankly astonishing Higuchinsky, it seemed pretty inevitable that the two forces who brought us that stunning movie should work together again. And in the same year of Uzumaki's release, lucky Japanese TV viewers got to witness their second joint project, Long Dream (aka Nagai yume), a short movie commissioned for TV.

Despite an infinitely reduced budget, a rotten tinkly-piano soundtrack which is an offense to the eardrums, and the obvious constraints of filming a TV movie, not to mention only clocking in at a woefully short 58 minutes, Higuchinsky manages (yet again!) to achieve the almost-impossible: he maintains the same weird and wonderful, stylish atmosphere and visuals that he first displayed in Uzumaki. OK, so the monster make-up is cheap and cheerful: compared to the previous movie's special effects, Long Dream looks positively creaky and won't be fooling anyone anytime soon.

But it soon becomes apparent that the film's budget shortcomings are completely irrelevant, because the simple fact of the matter is that no-one understands and interprets Junji Ito's weird, wild world half as well as Higuchinsky. And his eye for colour, space and composition is in no way diminished by the simple lack of funding. Having by now seen Ataru Oikawa's feeble stab at Tomie, and Norio Tsuruta's mediocre Kakashi, it seems pretty apparent that if you're going to make an Ito-manga live-action movie, Higuchinsky is your man. The visuals are as engagingly surreal and brain-bendingly psychedelic as Uzumaki, and the plot every bit as bizarre, unique and unhinged as you'd expect from an Ito story, with an twist in the ending I didn't see coming at all. So overlooking the £25 spent on foam rubber, bald wigs and snooker balls is pretty easy, because everything looks exactly how Ito would no doubt have wanted it to. There are also some very cute visual references to classic German silent movies such as F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, which was no doubt some influence on Higuchinsky's aesthetic for the movie.

As for the acting, well, if you've already seen Uzumaki you'll no doubt spot a couple of familiar revenants from that movie in the shape of Eriko Hatsune (Sakurai Kana), who doesn't really get the chance to show off her skills, seeing as how her role pretty much entails floating around winsomely, and spinning a red umbrella, which is a shame; and also Horiuchi Masami, who, paradoxically enough, gets to show off more of his skills than he did in Uzumaki, giving a thorougly likeable, sinister and delicious performance as the deranged Doctor Kuroda. The overall acting quality is really too fine for what is, in effect, an hour-long TV special, which just makes me even more jealous of lucky Japanese TV audiences, after the roaring success of KTV having commissioned the equally genius director Kiyoshi Kurosawa to make Kourei - believe me, this is not the kind of thing you'll find airing on UK prime-time TV, more's the pity ;-)


In an fairly ordinary hospital somewhere in Tokyo, two doctors, one who is a famous and well-respected neurologist by the name of Doctor Kuroda Shuusuke (Horiuchi Masami), and the other a young assistant called Yamauchi (Tsuda Kenjirou), are visiting one of the patients under their care, a pretty young girl called Takeshima Mami (Tsugumi). Despite having been told that her ailment, a benign brain tumour, is not life-threatening, she is completely hysterical with fear, screaming that she's been visited by the spirit of Death in the night, in the shape of a horrible, inhuman monster, with giant, staring eyeballs and long, evil claws.

However, Doctor Kuroda tries to soothe her by telling her that she wasn't visited by Death at all, but rather by another patient under his care, a young man named Mukoda Tetsurou (played very engagingly by Kashiwabara Shuuji). Poor old Mukoda was admitted to hospital himself only a few days beforehand, with a very odd complaint: he claims that time passes in his dreams differently to everyone else.

In fact, his dreams are slowly but surely lengthening to a point where several years are passing in merely a few seconds. And not only are the long dreams taking a toll on his body, causing strange alien-like genetic mutations, but they're taking a heavy toll on his mind; he can no longer distinguish between the sleeping and the waking worlds, between dreams and reality.

And that was the reason why he paid a little impromptu visit to Mami the night before: in his dream, which lasted well over a decade, he believed that he had been married to Mami for many years, so that when he woke and went to visit "his wife" Mami in her hospital room, he was completely confused, not only as to why she didn't recognise him, but why she got hysterical at the sight of him and called him 'shinigami' (roughly translated, it means 'the god of Death'). Of course, in reality she was truly petrified by his weird appearance and hearing him calling out her name as if he had come to claim her (despite not having the customary black robe and scythe to hand).

Naturally enough, Doctor Yamauchi is not only baffled by this bizarre case, but equally baffled by Kuroda's willingness - nay, massive enthusiasm - to investigate the causes of Mukoda's strange affliction extremely closely. However, Doctor Kuroda is not letting him into his secret, which is the real reason that he wants to find out everything he can about the 'long dreams' before it ends up killing poor old Mukoda: an old girlfriend of his, Sakurai Kana (Eriko Hatsune), once suffered from exactly the same problem. Except that in her case, when her dreams became insupportably long, she disappeared completely, leaving behind only a mysterious note for her grief-stricken lover to find, telling him she would wait for him ' the world of the eternal dream'.

And so Kuroda performs lots and lots of tests on Mukoda, trying to find out the secret of what causes the 'long dream' illness; but sadly, it's not until Mukoda finally disappears himself, under extremely strange circumstances, that the doctor discovers the secret of the mysterious malady: a strange red crystal which had either lodged in, or grown in, Mukoda's brain.

Simultaneously intrigued and baffled, and with more than a few ulterior motives of his own, Kuroda secretly sets to work conducting sinister tests with this new, weird substance. But Yamauchi has become suspicious of the good doctor's deeds: Kuroda has ordered him to observe Mami's progress and mental state very closely. But when she tells him that not only have her dreams been strangely long lately, but also that she's been having evil thoughts about a nurse, who she claims has been playing around with her boyfriend, Doctor Kuroda, Yamauchi is terrified - she seems to have caught Mukoda's illness! But is the 'long dream' disease truly contagious? What is Kuroda really up to with his secret tests? And why does the loopy doctor keep having heart-breaking visions of his long-disappeared love Kana at strange times, talking to her even though no-one else can see her?

The premise of Long Dream is, at its core, a really fascinating idea: what would happen to an ordinary human if, for some unknown reason, the amount of time which passes in their dreams started to get longer, and longer, eventually spanning not merely years, or decades, or even centuries, but forever? What effect, if any, would it have on their bodies, not to mention their brains? And what on earth would it be like to wake from a dream in which it felt to you like a hundred years had passed during only thirty seconds?

Ito's story plays on some very old human vulnerabilities, such as spatial and time awareness, which can easily be destroyed by such things as neurological illness, or drugs, and raises a peculiarly unsettling idea - that we are only barely in control of our lives and our perceptions at the best of times, and that madness can creep in at any time, for any reason. Reality is never as solid and secure as we'd like to think, and no-one is necessarily safe. And there is a real eye-opener of a plot twist at the end, which your humble reviewer didn't see coming at all ;-)

All in all, Long Dream is a corker of a 58-minute TV special, really entertaining and well-paced, with great acting and some gorgeous visuals. You can almost always guarantee that when Ito and Higuchinsky's worlds collide, there'll be a genius product at the end of it, no matter what the budget limitations may be. There are also some really fantastic extras on the DVD which include a long interview with Junji Ito, Higuchinsky and the stars of the show, which are sadly unsubtitled, but still well worth watching (even if you can't understand a word) just to get a glimpse of some original (and mainly unfinished!) Ito drawings. If you loved Uzumaki, you'll no doubt find a warm spot in your heart for Long Dream.

Editor's Note : Subtitles on the English version of Nagai yume were translated from the original Japanese by the Net's leading Junji Ito expert, Alexis Glass of - not Cannibal King as it states in the end credits of the movie. This is the proper and correct credit for the translation.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 8/10
Chills: 1/10
Violence: 7/10
Sex: 0/10
Laughs: 7/10 - mainly for the makeup, it has to be said ;-)
Gory Murders: 1.... or is it 2?
Monster Makeup: probably available at your local novelty shop at a low, low cost - either that or customise a couple of bald wigs and ping-pong balls for the same effect
Is There A False Ending? - you bet there is, and it's a doozy ;-)
Number of Geniuses Involved In This Production: 2, at least
Litres of Tomato Ketchup: more than a bottle but less than a tanker


Long Dream Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2003

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Horiuchi Masami
Eriko Hatsune
Kashiwabara Shuuji


Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of reviews or pages online about this movie yet, so the links list is going to be a little lighter than usual - sorry! - the amazing Alexis Glass has a very dedicated Junji Ito site, featuring reviews of pretty much all the movies ever made based on Ito's manga, including a great review of Nagai yume with comments and images from the film - a very useful page about Nagai yume at the great dictionary of all things Japanese and horror, FJ Movie. Features cast/crew details and a short synopsis - A huge list of pretty much everything Junji Ito has ever written and drawn, with references and some comments

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