Saturday, August 1, 2020

Dorimu hanta Remu (1985)

... aka:ドリームハンター麗夢
... aka: Beautiful Dream Appears
... aka: Dorīmu Hantā Remu
... aka: Dorīmu Hantā Remu: Sanmu! Yomigaeru Shinigami Hakase
... aka: Dream Hunter Rem
... aka: Dream Hunter Rem: Rem Appears
... aka: Dream Hunter Rem: Special Version
... aka: Dream Hunter Rem: Violent Dream! Dr. Death Resurrected

Directed by:
Seiji Okuda

Rem Ayanokōji is a green-haired, bubbly teenage detective with her own office in a shady part of Tokyo who specializes in solving supernatural mysteries. She doesn't advertise her services, deals with clientele on a strictly word-of-mouth basis and has two trusty assistants in Alpha and Beta: a cat and a dog with supernatural powers of their own and the ability to transform into larger versions of themselves. In our first story, "Rem Appears," the nervous assistant of a man shows up at her office with a new job that involves another teenage girl named Miyuki who has not been acting herself recently. Possession is suspected. Rem loads her Colt .44 Magnum with silver bullets engraved with crosses on the tips, hops in her convertible (which has a hidden missile launcher tucked away in the back!) with her assistants and she's off to a gloomy old mansion out in the middle of nowhere. She meets the girls' parents, Goutokuhi and Kumiko, who inform her that even the best university doctors have been unable to help their ailing daughter. In fact, one of the top doctors has already been driven crazy trying. Fearing she'll die, they contacted Rem out of desperation. Rem scans the daughter's body with her special ghost goggles and realizes she's covered with invisible little ghosts and monsters.

As the title implies, Rem's special gift is the ability to enter others' dreams to find out what's really harming them. In Miyuki's case it's a large, tentacled blue demon who's sucking away Miyuki's lifeforce by keeping her from falling asleep. Because this is a dream, the best the demons can really do is create illusions; something Rem is well aware of. It impales her with shards of wood, levitates her, makes her face melt off, sends a legion of mini-demons her way and then transforms into a demon sword fighter. Rem does some transforming of her own: into a sword-wielding fighter in a bikini and knee-high boots. She's the original Dream Warrior! After the demon threatens to just kill Miyuki in the dream, Rem is able to coerce it out of the dream into the real world, where it materializes as a giant, Godzilla-like monster, to do battle. The loser ends up dead for "real."

After a brief interlude called "Rem's Study" where our heroine briefly explains dreams to us, our next tale - the obviously NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET-inspired "Violent Dream! Dr. Death Resurrected" begins. A series of disappearances and decapitation murders are plaguing Tokyo and detectives are on the case. The culprit is Doctor Shimura, a gray-haired psycho who dresses in a cape and top hat, uses a grim reaper-like scythe and not only kills but also "collects" young girls, whom he keeps in liquid-filled tubes back at his home. Once the police catch up to him after yet another killing, they discover that he's not quite human either. He survives multiple bullet wounds and even a gunshot directly to the head. Once cornered in his home, he ingests some kind of potion that makes him burn down to a skeleton and evaporate. Is his reign of terror finally over? Nope!

A series of identical killings soon follow after the doctor's presumed death, except this time the victims have all been killed in their sleep and the bodies are all found in their bedrooms. And those who have survived the dream attacks have woken up with real wounds. Detective Junichirō Sakaki, whose own daughter Yukari has also been attacked but survived (at least this time), has no other choice than to consult Rem. Rem immediately goes to Det. Sakaki's home, where she finds bald monk named Enkou praying over Yukari's body. Though Enkou can only do so much, his prayers actually do end up helping our heroine when she's in the middle of doing battle with the bad guy.

After Rem enters Yukari's dream, she has an encounter with Dr. Shimura, who now has a half-skeletal face. He impersonates Yukari's motorcycle-riding boyfriend Naoto, who had been killed when a semi truck hit his bike, to try to trick them and eventually gets Rem, Alpha and Beta strapped underneath a razor-sharp pendulum. Shimura also has a special device that can change a dreamers sleep from REM (deep sleeping when most pleasant dreams occur) to non-REM sleep (a shallow sleep when most nightmares occur).

Seeing how this was not originally intended as a feature (see below as to why) it's unavoidably episodic and slightly disjointed by default. It's also a little too one-note with the characters. Our heroine is a complete mystery that we don't really learn much about and comes off as excessively perky at times, though it's this exact dichotomy between cutesy and grisly that provides a unique kind of entertainment you usually only get from anime. This will perhaps be of special interest to Elm Street series fans as you get to see a similar concept done in a format where there are no technological or budgetary restrictions on the crazy avenues the dreams can go down.

The original video release from Orange Video House in June 1985 ran just 21 minutes, included just the first tale and contained several scenes of hentai (anime porn), including Miyuki masturbating when the sheets are pulled back, getting tentacle raped and being tortured nude, plus Rem herself getting raped by the demon's mutant green tentacle wiener and then shooting a laser out of her vagina. Girl power! Close-up shots of genitalia and penetration were all, of course, scrambled. All of these shots were either replaced with clothed shots or removed altogether for the later "special version" released in November 1985; the same month the first Elm Street sequel FREDDY'S REVENGE hit U.S. theaters. This second release is the one that includes the mad doctor tale and it runs about 46 minutes. I have included shots from the uncut version below for the curious. Personally, I could give or take these bits. They add a little shock value perhaps but I also didn't miss them at all while viewing the cut version.

These two tapes proved to be very popular in Japan, so two immediate sequels (released in 1986 and 1987) followed plus a spin-off series called New Dream Hunter Rem that lasted 2 chapters (released in 1990 and 1992). There were also releases of DHR soundtracks, CD "voice movie" versions, novels and comics. Two DVD box sets of the series were released by Only Hearts in Japan in 2006 and 2007.

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