“There are no boundaries to dreams.”
Dreams are when we’re at our most vulnerable, when we invite our subsconscious to just have at it, allowing 6-8 hours of literally no rules in your own brain, while expecting to wake up relatively undamaged the next morning. It’s on par with trusting Harold Shipman to make sure your ma gets to the hospital for her flu jab.
So horror that exists in that zone is a fantastically macabre mind-fuck for me, akin to medical horror (“but doctors are supposed to use their surgical accuracy to help people!”). Or the potential intangibleness and thus, seeming invincibility of, your average house ghost.
And so enter tonight’s entry in our horror-a-thon: Paprika (2006), a feature-length foray into the dreamosphere that inspired f
amous female fridger flick Inception. In this, a bunch of psychiatrists happily tinker with a DC Mini, a revolutionary device that permits them to enter their patients’ dreams in order to improve their therapy. Our main character, Dr. Atsuko Chiba, travels through dreams as her adorably-voiced alter-ego ‘Paprika’, the antithesis of her normal, stoic, adult-voiced self.
Shit gets real when the device is stolen and used to vegetable-ise a handful of her coworkers, who start spouting a bunch of nonsensical garbage. And bleeding everywhere. And so even though Chiba’s boss bans use of the drug, the others decide to investigate, because the dream wold and real world have begun to merge. Eeep!
Now would be a good time to mention that this also includes nightmares, and holy crap, they are vivid and bizarre and gravity-defying and dimension-skewing and just overall “fuck u, physics!!!!11”. Because what’s the point of making a movie about dreams – and an animated one at that – if you can’t stuff it full of neon colours, tribally-marching fridges and dead-eyed cannibalistic putty dolls?
Background art is usually far more detailed and flatter than the subjects, and Paprika makes use of the disembodied disparity with such creepy effectiveness. Even when the talking appliances and mildly murderous toys are off-screen, it’s clear when we’re seeing a dream and when we’re not.
At a little over 70 minutes, this one’s short and sweet, so fairly light on the character development. Full of off-kilter dream designs, varied characters and some odd little turns and turns (less the twists, more the turns), I could see what sequences were almost lifted for Inception.
Probably not the tentacle stuff, though.
Here it is, in its entirety: