Thursday, October 25, 2012

25 Horror Films: #17 and #16


Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo, 1964)

A simple story perfectly realized.

The way films tend to exist in my mind
that is, what I remember about themusually revolves around certain images, scenes, performances, feelings and sensations. Not plot. And Onibaba exists in my mind as rustling bamboo, hot, sweaty nights, and the sound of cooing pigeons. Now, that might sound like a criticism, but Shindo renders it all as poetry, which is why Onibaba continues to stick with me when so many other films have turned to vapor.

The horror? It's there. Perhaps more in the shadows and darkness than in what's captured on film. At least for the majority of its running time.  

Cure (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1997)

On the surface, Cure would be more easily categorized as a thriller, a detective film, a police procedural, or even more simply as a "serial killer movie." But this being Kiyoshi Kurosawa, it's best to forget about the surface. The deep horror in Cure becomes most apparent once we realize that, above everything else, it's a film about identity. That might not sound terrifying, but it is. (Doubly so if the prospect of thinking terrifies you.)

Cure also features one of my favorite endings. Supremely subtle and haunting.

"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." Tom Mes

INTERVIEWER: You've stated that a common theme in your films, and certainly in "Cure," is "men and women whose value systems are shattered by a particular event, which utterly undermines their sense of self." What is it about a shattered value system that you find interesting?

KUROSAWA: To elaborate on that, I would say my characters have had their value system shattered, but by film's end, wind up with an altogether different value system. Living in the democracy that is modern-day Japan, I am told I am quite free to do what I want. But I think in fact, I am bound by common practice, laws and accepted morality, so I don't feel very free at all. So in that sense, while I may be incapable of cutting myself free from all these ties that bind me, in my fictional stories, I take a fictional character bound by all of these conventions and allow them an opportunity to break free. They can walk towards what, until then, had been an unfathomable freedom.

INTERVIEWER: In "Cure," you take a much quieter, "less is more" approach to horror films. Why do you feel this is more effective than the louder, tongue in cheek attitude found in the current crop of American horror films?

KUROSAWA: I don't think that blood spurting or screaming instigates abject human fear. They may be shocked, but this doesn't lead to pure terror. What I consider a genuinely effective horror film is that well after the film is over and the audience has gone home, the fear and terror instilled in them survives, forcing the spectator to wonder "What did I just see?" 


Drew McIntosh said...

Amen on the ending of Cure. I remember the first time watching it I had to rewind back a few times over just to piece together a rough idea of what I thought had happened. Watching it now, the horror is apparent and staggering. It's a phenomenal film. Kurosawa in general tends to work like that on me - he has the same intrinsic disdain for exposition that gives way to a tremendously powerful purity of sensation that someone like Ford had. He's become one of my favorite directors.

I've really been enjoying this countdown, Tyler. Looking forward to the future posts.

Tyler said...

Hi Drew --

I wouldn't be surprised if the ending of Cure, with its choreography of "random" people, inspired the ending to Cache (though Haneke took it to an extreme). I wish more films had endings in this vein.

In terms of the horror genre, I prefer Cure to Pulse, which I seem to be in the minority on. (And Onibaba to Kuroneko, for that matter.)

It's nice to know people have been enjoying the series. After a busy weekend I've fallen a bit behind...