A simple story perfectly realized.
The way films tend to exist in my mind—that is, what I remember about them—usually 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.
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?"