1997. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
Semiotic storytelling by way of a serial killer epic, Cure is a masterpiece entry into the horror genre. An unrelenting, moody piece that exudes an aura of evil in every frame, this is a one of kind film affair.
A rash of killings has police detective Takabe baffled. The victims are all killed with an X in their jugular, but the killer is always different, but yet easily apprehended. The killers have no recollection of why they did the crime. Joined by a psychologist, Takabe soon crosses paths with the enigmatic Mamiya who may or may not be the mastermind behind the murders. What follows is a surreal descent into madness.
Cure is a lesson in atmosphere. It's easy to compare it to Se7en and Silence of the Lambs, as it walks the divide between crime procedural and horror adequately, but Cure soars beyond these films due to it's intricate storytelling, menacing presentation, and puzzle laden set pieces. Kurosawa's script is a delayed release shocker, using imagery and sound to create a subdued, yet hostile world . The violence is after the fact and the implications are world altering. Kurosawa's dialogue brims with mind bending symbolism and confusing mysteries that require multiple viewings to truly appreciate. This is the kind of film that reveals a little of its self at a time, shedding mask upon mask until it's diabolic core is fully exposed, and by then it's far too late to disengage.
Cure challenges the concept of how memory creates reality, while also delivering a white hot critique of everyday complacency leading to disdain for the miracles of family, life, and love. Noriaki Kikumura's unsettling cinematography is grim and dirty, presenting Tokyo as a twisted reflection of its surface self. Police stations and hospitals are filled with open spaces and dark hallways just waiting to be coated in blood. Like everything in Cure, even the buildings hold secrets waiting to be revealed, their loneliness a physical representation of the characters' minds.
Mesmerism is another key to the narrative and it's use is one of the most horrifying and inventive things I've ever witnessed in a film. To speak further would spoil. Tomoyuki Maruo's production design is the strongest aspect of the film. Every item has a story or something to hide, every room is the afterthought of a murder, and be sure to keep an eye on the placement o chairs. It's simply stunning to view a film in which the director and crew have gone so far out of their way to provide more of an experience than simple entertainment. However, make no mistake, this is one of the scariest films ever made and will stick with you long into the hours of the night. Cure is a story that sincerely engages and then unmercifully terrorizes with its profound statements and genuinely creepy images.
Available on DVD, Cure is essential viewing for fans of psychological horror who are content with having to draw their own conclusions. Not for the faint of heart, Cure is an infectious dissertation on the dark side of humanity that will perplex and torment in equal amounts, delivering a seminal celluloid nightmare.
Highly, highly recommend.