TNB Night Owl–Cure

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

“What are you watching?”
“A Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie I’m going to do for the Night Owl this week.”
“Is it going to be one of those not cheesy movies?”
“Depends on how you look at it. It’s cheesy, but not bad cheesy.”
“He’s one of those masters of cinema. Some people might be mad if you say he made a cheesy movie.”
“Oh, wait, you’re thinking Akira Kurosawa. This is Kiyoshi. No relation. This is the guy who made the movie about an evil tree trying to kill all the other trees in the forest.”

At that moment, my husband looks at me with that look that says, “I don’t know what movie you’re talking about but I don’t think I want to know any more.”

“So you’re doing a movie about an evil tree?”
“Nope. That one’s not on YouTube. So I’m doing a different one of his. Evil hypnotist.”
“Okay then.”

“Okay then” is a phrase that occurs a lot when watching CURE (1997). Kiyoshi Kurosawa is one of the masters of modern Japanese horror, with the abovementioned CHARISMA (the evil tree movie), PULSE (his take on the evils of technology) and SEANCE (a remake of the American movie, SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON). However, it’s CURE that sticks with people the most.

We open with a kind woman named Fumie reading from “Bluebeard” at her psychiatrist’s office. She is having memory issues. While they never come out and say what’s wrong with her, it’s similar to the beginning stages of early onset Alzheimer’s. While she opens the movie, it’s really centered around her husband Kenichi. Kenichi is a police detective investigating a series of murders. The question isn’t who is committing the killings; the killer is found within minutes of discovering the crime. No, the question is where the connection comes in. None of the killers of victims know each other, none are connected by profession. The connections are that the killers admit freely to having committed the crimes and have no idea why, and they have all carved giant Xs into their victims. The pressure of caring for his stricken wife and the pressures of trying to stop the killings before more happen are getting to Kenichi. He is always a breath away from an angry outburst.

The audience finds out before Kenichi does what the connection is. They’ve all been hypnotized by a young college student named Makoto. He claims to not know who he is or what his past is, but within minutes of meeting someone he’s able to tap into their deepest, darkest thoughts and bring out the worst in them. Is he really stricken with amnesia or is an act to lure his victims into a trance? Is it true that you can’t hypnotize a person to go against their base moral compass? Where did the chain of hypnosis and murder start, and where will it finally end…if it ever will?

Kurosawa’s movies aren’t easy watches. He’ll give you clues, and he’ll give them to you with some fantastic visuals. Answers are a different story. He doesn’t hand them to you, and there may not even be one definitive answer. CURE is the best example of how he works. I’ve seen it at least ten times. Each time I discover a detail or clue that I never noticed before. When you’re in a rabbit-hole mood, CURE is a great way to indulge it in less than two hours.

Question of the night: have you or anyone you know been through hypnosis?

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