Director in focus: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Want to inject some existential despair into your horror movie watching this Halloween? Look no further than the films of Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Japanese horror, or “J-horror,” films were introduced to the Western world through such remakes as “The Ring” and “The Grudge.”  Offering a unique take on the ghost story, they were a reminder to audiences that horror isn’t always about slashing and gashing.

However, more curious moviegoers sought out the original films that these mega-hits were based off of, and this cinematic diligence can be necessary with releases like the 2006 American version of “Pulse.” It quickly flopped and dissipated from the public eye. Without seeking out the Japanese version in “Kairo,” audiences will miss out on one of the most essential horror films and horror directors of the past decade.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is the man behind “Kairo.”  It is, on the surface, a ghost story, but Kurosawa’s film is anything but conventional. It raises deep philosophical questions while keeping viewers on edge with mounting dread. “Kairo” works with a scattered narrative, and it is often difficult to absorb the array of images and concepts thrown on the screen. However, after watching closely, audiences will find a poignant tale about loneliness in the digital age. Kurosawa wants the public to ponder the loss of human connection through technology, and the struggle in today’s world to unify with each other.

“Kairo” isn’t the only masterpiece Kurosawa has given us.  With “Cure,” another film that is unfortunately obscure to American audiences, Kurosawa tackles a sinister, serial-killing drifter who claims to have short-term memory loss and is unaware of the atrocities he commits. Though more structurally straightforward than “Kairo,” it is no less riveting in its explorations of societal alienation.

Although these two films are great starting points, Kurosawa has an impressive oeuvre and remains an extremely prolific director. Although he has tried his hand in domestic drama, these two horror films may be the best representation of his directing style.

So, as October and Halloween loom in your mind while looking for a spooky movie in a ritual Netflix browse, look for this sadly overlooked director. While there isn’t much gore or startling shocks, Kurosawa’s films will leave a lasting impression with their eerily precise examination of human longing.