All that ties the murders of Cure together is a red X. That is all director Kiyoshi Kurosawa needs to present detailed torture of the body and soul. None of the murderers remembers their actions or their victims, and as Detective Takabe (Koji Yakusho) and psychologist Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) is called in to investigate, the paranormal, supernatural elements soon unearth themselves. It is nice to see a film so defined by its murderous intent, yet so careful and fearful of adapting or explaining it, to either itself or an audience. It marks the work of Kurosawa as a piece not just to be feared, but respected too.
Its inherent possibilities are the leading draw. A thriller that replaces the conventional kills and thrills of the genre with a sensible, steady sense of dread and unease. To master that apprehension, this leading pair is marked with trepidation. Unsure of what is happening, their actions and subsequent consequences are natural. At least, as natural as can be considering the circumstances. Murders with witnesses, yet nobody to truly blame. Kurosawa is not comfortable only hooking his audience to a good synopsis, he throws everything he can at an audience, and most of it sticks rather well. Hypnosis, double-crosses, acts of pity and fear around men and women who know as little as the audience do. All of it bleeds off of the screen with a stark, engaging effect.
Where this tale of terrible actions takes us is down the usual variety of cop-led thrillers. Eventually, they are to encounter the entity causing so much struggle and strife. That scene is handled well and comes late enough in the film to feel as though an audience has received a good amount of thrills. They have been teased with the promise of a pay-off from those early moments of the film, and to actually receive an amicable climax of traditional value does do a lot to unburden the creativity of the earlier scenes. Within Cure, there is still a sense of identity to attach it to the thriller and horror genres, not because it tries to escape them, but because it must remind audiences from time to time that its thrills are founded on the core values of the typical thriller. That comfort is, thankfully, not confused for cliché.
There is intricacy and dread found within the murders and killings within Cure not because its characters are inherently likeable or all that formidable in the face of danger, but because of how the murders take place. It is that element of surprise and the approach Kurosawa takes in displaying them. Spine-tingling stuff, and a definitive example of how the horror genre can use killings and violence as more than just a shot of adrenalin whenever the story begins to lull. Cure adapts its story and its violence into one another with a tenacity like no other, providing a grand, articulate display of twisted themes and remarkable, horrifying moments. Its horror comes from the discomfort, the brutality is just a bonus for Kurosawa and his cast.