One of the prominent contributors to the J-Horror boom that began in the late 1990s, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has carved a distinct place for himself in the world of cinema. Often referred to as “The Other Kurosawa,” his thriller “Cure” (1997) proves that he is deserving of the recognition that comes with this lofty title.
“Cure” follows protagonist Kenichi Takabe (Kôji Yakusho), a detective investigating a strange string of murders that are serial in manner, but distinct in perpetrator. Each victim sports an X-shaped gash in his or her neck, but the killer is always different and never seems like the type to commit such a horrible crime. So, how is it that these murders are happening?
Enter the answer: Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara). A man who appears to have extreme short-term memory loss, Mamiya constantly asks the characters in the film–and by extension, the viewer–this simple question: “Who are you?”. It’s unclear if we ever really find out.
“Cure” shines with its interesting take on the typical “serial killer” plot, its jarring use of sound, and its brilliant scene blocking. Touching on themes of identity, morality, and autonomy, the audience constantly asks itself: Where do these things intersect? Do other people have influence over us, or is it that they have the ability to bring out latent qualities that we have always had lurking just beneath the surface? Do we truly control our own actions, or are the sum of our actions us? It’s exhausting to think about.
All in all, this film is a definite must-watch if you want to question the workings of human nature for the foreseeable future. In all its meta-psychological glory, “Cure” is a staple and certifies that Kiyoshi Kurosawa is truly the king of Japanese horror.
Filmnetic Grade: A+
“Cure” (1997) is one of my favorite Japanese movies along with Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “Woman in the Dunes” (1964). What’s your favorite Japanese film? Comment below!