By Sean Boelman
In a rare move, a majority of the films released in the Criterion Collection this October were in the horror genre — although that doesn’t mean they departed from their usual auteur fare. One of the new highlights is J-horror legend Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, featuring a new 4K restoration of the film released by Janus Films theatrically earlier this year.
The movie follows a detective who investigates a string of unusual murders, where a suspect is found near the scene of the crime with no recollection of the events of the killing. It’s a structure that has been copied time and time again since — a detective unraveling a bizarre mystery with seemingly supernatural elements — but Kurosawa’s direction is so strong that it still holds up.
One of the most unorthodox things about the film is its approach to its characters. The characters all feel distant and cold, which really gives it the feel of a procedural thriller over being a horror movie. Kōji Yakusho is excellent as the weary detective who has to unravel the truth behind what is happening.
There aren’t many horror movies in the Criterion Collection, but Cure is absolutely an essential addition thanks to its role in globalizing the genre of J-horror. The film established Kiyoshi Kurosawa as a force to be reckoned with in international horror, and set the stage for other filmmakers, like Hideo Nakata or Takashi Shimizu, to enter the mix.
This isn’t what audiences will be used to with horror movies in that it isn’t super scary, instead opting to create a sense of overwhelming dread. Even within J-horror, the film is pretty tame, dealing more in atmosphere than it does in being overtly disturbing — however, it will creep under the viewer’s skin.
Indeed, this slow burn allows the movie to be haunting to viewers and stick with them long after the credits roll. Much of this is due to Kurosawa’s exquisite direction and strong crafts, especially the cinematography by Tokushô Kikumura. There is definitely a reason that Kurosawa is hailed as one of the greatest filmmakers of his genre.
The highlight of the bonus features is a new conversation between Kurosawa and fellow Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who directed last year’s critical darling Drive My Car (which joined the Collection itself only a few months ago). The film also features some archive interviews and a booklet with an essay.
For cinephiles looking for an expertly-crafted horror movie to add to their collection this spooky season, look no further than the Criterion edition of Cure. Although it’s a bit bare bones, it was difficult to find on home media for quite a while, so this is one you will definitely want to add to your shelves.
The Criterion Collection edition of Cure is now available.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.