Document type
20 March 2001
Format viewed


picture: Cure (1997)picture: Cure (1997)

Original title
  • Koji YAKUSHO
  • Tsuyoshi UJIKI
  • Masato HAGIWARA
  • Ren OSUGI
Running time
112 mins.

picture: Cure (1997)

Tom Mes

Cure is something of a landmark film in the career of director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Despite the fact that he had been very steadily making films (at the rate of about three a year) since his 1983 debut Kandagawa Wars (Kandagawa Inran Senso), his international breakthrough came when Cure toured the world's film festivals during the course of 1998.

Even though Kurosawa has continued his prolific output since then (including a semi-sequel to Cure in the guise of 1999's Charisma), Cure somehow refuses to go away. Its latest triumph being a US theatrical release in 2001, in the wake of the stateside success of Hideo Nakata's international cult hit Ring. Inevitably this has already prompted more than a few to simply dismiss Cure as a cash-in, despite the fact that it was made over a year earlier and that the line of influence more likely runs in the opposite direction.

Because quite frankly, to compare Cure to Ring is to sell it short by many, many miles. Aside from the aspect of quality (I was far from impressed by the convoluted, clumsily constructed Ring), Cure is quite simply not a tale of the supernatural. Rather, it is a take on the serial killer film, and a revisionist one at that.

The story concerns a number of murders in which the victims have all died from a very peculiar knife wound: a large X has been carved into their flesh, across the throat and chest. Even more peculiar is the fact that despite the identical MO, each of the murders is committed by a different person and this person is always found near or at the scene of the crime. None of the culprits are linked, none appear to have a motive for the crime, nor have they any idea of the reasons behind their actions. "It seemed like the most normal thing to do," is their answer.

Police detective Takabe (the ubiquitous but always excellent Koji Yakusho) is put on the case with the assistance of a psychologist (played former pop singer Tsuyoshi Ujiki, who starred in Takashi Miike's Full Metal Gokudo that same year). At a total loss at first, their only guess is the influence of television or film, a hunch as quickly dispelled as it is suggested. Then after several more murders they learn that each of the unwitting killers came into contact with a young drifter just before the crime took place. When he is brought into custody, it turns out he is an amnesiac - an enigmatic figure who is amazingly adept at hypnosis and continually asks people the question "Who are you?"

His presence and behavior have a pernicious effect on Takabe, a man already under stress on account of his wife's mental illness, and as he finds it harder and harder to control his temper and emotions, a battle of wills between the two ensues. A battle which will have to end in the demise of one or both of them.

Cure is an unnerving and unsettling film. Director Kurosawa proves to be an absolute master at creating a bleak atmosphere that chills the viewer to the very bone. Many subtle elements are combined to powerful effect. Locations are cold, run-down, deserted and dilapidated, characters are enigmatic and painted in shades of grey rather than black and white, the acting is understated and the unique use of sound thoroughly unnerving. Gore and blood are glimpsed occasionally and are presented in a way that is cool and observing.

In what is without doubt one of the purest horror films made in recent times, Kiyoshi Kurosawa unleashes a shadow. It is the shadow of apocalypse, an apocalypse which is not seen or heard, but sensed. And it's creeping ever closer.


Home Vision (USA)

picture: DVD cover of 'Cure'

Region 1. English subtitles.

MK2 (France)

picture: DVD cover of 'Cure'

Region 2. French subtitles.

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Toshiba (Japan)

picture: DVD cover of 'Cure'

Region 2. English subtitles.