Cure Blu-ray Review
Japan's answer to Seven
1997's Cure was acclaimed director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's breakthrough serial killer thriller, coming just two years after the release of David Fincher's masterful Seven.Kurosawa made his name with psychological horror, with Cure being something of a breakthrough hit and his later Pulse updating Ring(u) themes for the internet generation. After dipping into myriad different genres to mixed effect - seldom reclaiming the heights of these two early standout pieces - he returned to psychological horror thriller territory with 2016's underrated (and poorly titled) Creepy and, on the evidence of it, this genre appears to be where the writer/director works his magic. Another great Japanese director who takes the auteur approach to controlling multiple aspects of the creative process (like Takeshi "Sonatine" Kitano), Kurosawa not only writes but also directs all of his productions, giving them an identity which was first truly obvious in Cure, and is evident still in Creepy.The story follows frequent collaborator Koji Yakusho's dogged Detective Takabe, set the unenviable task of investigating a spate of related murders, all perpetrated by seemingly unrelated individuals whose only connection is short term amnesiac Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara). Unlike it's most obvious Hollywood comparator, Seven - which is a relative exercise in Hollywood restraint on exposition - Kurosawa doesn't even try to spoon feed you anything, almost taking a documentary approach to telling this borderline preternatural story, which disturbs mostly by detailing how average everyday individuals are being drawn into this sick game (that and having them hypnotically peel the flesh from bodies), with the two key players bouncing dangerously off one another. Just like Creepy, Cure gets right under your skin.
Picture QualityCure comes to the UK courtesy of Eureka and their The Masters of Cinema Series, on a Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. The medium budget Japanese production easily shows its 20 year age - as many Kitano releases from the era are prone to - even if this looks to be a new 2K Master from the original 35mm negative, and so whilst this is likely the best that the film will ever look, it's hardly anything approaching reference.
About the best we're likely to get
Detail is really rather variable, with some specific close-ups afforded quite a striking amount of fine observation, whilst other shots appear soft and even hazy. The film carries a healthy layer of filmic grain which pervades the piece, and certainly seems reflective of that era of Japanese filmmaking, but the budget and perhaps locations / lighting often leave it looking less than ideal. This largely suits the movie, as it is quite a dark production, trading in shadowplay and mood lighting, but the lapses in clarity, low level lighting and noises leave the film struggling at more points than you would like, all rounded off with muddy grey-blacks and a murky quality that only works if you pretend it's part of the style. It's full of highs and lows, at pretty-much peak extremes - one rear-projection sequence is terrible, just about as low as the presentation gets, and is followed almost immediately by a daytime shot at the institution gardens which looks just about as good as the image gets. As stated, it's about the best we're likely to get from the film, but fans will still be disappointed that it doesn't look better.
Sound QualityThe score ramps up the suspense, like something out of a tense sci-fi-horror
The aural accompaniment is harder to fault, and whilst it's hardly reference - or demo - quality either, it at least delivers the understated but intense soundtrack with strong presence across the array. Delivered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the original Japanese dialogue gets prioritisation across the fronts and centre, backed up by stable and perfectly matched English subtitles, whilst effects afford decent enough observation of the natural elements that pervade the piece, giving it a decent organic atmosphere irrespective of the lack of inherent bombast. The score is frequently non-existent, remaining beyond reach for much of the movie, but then creeping up with an intensity that knocks you off-kilter and ramps up the suspense (the-banging-the-radiator sequence is a fine example, with natural effects like that and the wind often made a part of the actual score). As stated, whilst hardly demo, it does a very good job with the moody material.
ExtrasEureka afford the release a trio of Interviews in the way of extra features, including a quarter hour piece with film critic Kim Newman, a 20 minute archival Interview with the director himself, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and a further more recent quarter hour Interview with Kurosawa commissioned by Eureka themselves. The disc is rounded off by a Trailer.
Blu-ray VerdictCure gets right under your skin
Following on from Eureka's release of writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy, early last year, they add his first major success, 1997's Cure to their The Masters of Cinema series, with a decent enough release that can only do so much with such clearly limited source material, and include a couple of nice extras for new measure. Fans will want to add it to their collection.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £13.99
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