Plot: What’s it about?
Tokyo has been plagued with vicious murders, but even with the killers captured, the police are baffled, to say the least. The crimes were independent, but have a connection that no one can seem to explain. The victims were found with a red X sliced into their throats, with the murderers found close to the remains. It is obvious the murders were carried out by those found on the site, but none of them remember the incident. Those involved have never talked or even met one another, but their stories all strike the same notes. The murderers were not insane, cruel, or even hot tempered people, the opposite was true in most cases. These were normal, kind people who killed in cold blood, often slaying people they loved. What drove these people to such violent ends, when no signs of such a vicious side were ever seen? This is what Detective Kenichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho) is assigned to discover, as daunting a task as that seems. A lone clue stands before his quest, a mysterious stranger who encountered all of those involved. This unknown person was found at the scene of the last murder, when he was arrested. He has a strange effect on all those he comes into contact with, but Takabe is unsure of his role in the deaths. Can he uncover the truth about the murders, while gambling his own sanity in the process?
I have seen countless serial killer movies and while some are quite good, most recent efforts seem tired and rehashed. As much as I love a good bloodbath, most recent serial killer flicks rely too much on bloodshed and cheap scares, instead of trying to get inside the viewer’s head and create genuine tension. That trend is dominant, but it didn’t impact Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, a 1997 picture that proves the subject matter isn’t tapped out. Kurosawa manages to create real atmosphere, a sense of total despair and detachment that really drives home the film’s eerie, cold texture and stays inside your mind long after the end credits have passed. A lot of directors think if you turn out the lights, that is all the atmosphere you need, but Kurosawa conjures up a world of shadow that never lets you lower your guard, even for a second. That kind of tension is needed to allow the film’s full blown impact to smash into the viewers, who start to feel their own kind of despair, thanks to the film’s dark and cold world. The chills come from that well crafted, realistic atmosphere, which is much more effective than cheap scares and gore. Cure has some blood content however, just not an overload of the red stuff. I don’t want to forget the performances, as the natural, understated turns were perfect for this material. This is just an excellent, well made movie that hits all the right marks, so Cure is given our highest recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Cure is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I’ve seen some poor looking import discs, but Home Vision has delivered on all fronts. The print used is in excellent condition, with minimal marks and debris. This ensures the visuals can draw full effect, as frequent debris or grain could have lessened the dark visuals. I did see a little grain in some scenes, as well as some jagged edges, but these were minor problems at worst. The image is quite crisp and refined, a much better effort in that regard than I had expected. The other releases of Cure I have seen were softer than I’d like, but this one looks terrific. No worries with contrast either, as the dark shadows look excellent and the black levels never suffer in the least. In the end, a great looking overall presentation, with only a few minor quibbles to mention.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Japanese soundtrack is preserved here, in a limited, but more than passable 2.0 stereo presentation. I would have loved a full on Dolby Digital 5.1 option here, as this movie has some excellent audio presence, but this track is still solid. The audio really adds to the tense atmosphere, but in this soundtrack, it is restrained at times. Even so, the elements never seem that held back, though I am sure a 5.1 track would have opened up the subtle presence. This is an eerie movie, which means all the little creaks, gusts of winds, and other small audio touches add to the experience more than in some pictures. The music is well presented also, while dialogue is always clean and never hard to understand. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, which have been newly retranslated just for this release.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes an interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a talent file on Kurosawa, and the film’s theatrical trailer.