Saturday, October 13, 2007

Season 2 Episode 13
“Dream Cruise”
Teleplay by Naoya Takayama and Norio Tsuruta; based on the short story by Koji Suzuki; directed by Norio Tsuruta

As with Season 1, which had the Japanese contribution as its 13th episode (Takashi Miike’s “Imprint”), this season culminates in Norio Tsuruta’s “Dream Cruise,” based on Koji Suzuki’s short story.
Contained in the Dark Water collection (where the basis for Hideo Nakata’s Honogurai mizu no soko kara, “Floating Water,” can likewise be found), “Dream Cruise” has water as its central image. Not only that, but the story is actually set on the high seas.

Utilizing the set up of films like Philip Noyce’s Dead Calm and Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water (both of which Tsuruta studied before filming began), “Dream Cruise” also follows the often-seen premise of many an entry in past horror anthologies, the cuckolded husband (Ryo Ishibashi, from Miike’s Odishon and the English-language Grudge films) exacting his revenge on his cheating wife (Yoshino Kimura) and her lover (Daniel Gillies).
Sadly though, “Dream Cruise” is nowhere near as effective as MoH’s previous Japanese entry, Miike’s “Imprint,” nor Nakata’s adaptations of Suzuki source material.
Most of the fault, I feel, lies in Tsuruta’s hands.

I’ve never really warmed to Tsuruta, who directed the Ringu prequel, Ringu 0: Basudei, and whose Kakashi left me feeling dissatisfied. In “Dream Cruise,” Tsuruta doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen before in any number of Asian horror films of the past, and he isn’t helped any by performances that range from mediocre to poor.
The threadbare budget is also painfully obvious, and there is much here that is either dreadfully wince-worthy, or downright laughable.
And perhaps most telling of all is the fact that the claustrophobia of the situation—trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean—never really registers in any tangible manner. Tsuruta and his actors never seem to be able to mine the material for all its potential, apparently unable to convey the tension and suspense that by all rights should be there, given the premise. One would perhaps be better served by watching Dead Calm again. (I myself haven’t seen it in a long time, but I do recall thinking it a tense and effective thriller, with Nicole Kidman bringing to mind a young Sigourney Weaver.)

All in all, “Dream Cruise” is a sad—and ultimately predictable—note on which to end the second (and final) season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror.

Parting shot: It’s interesting to note though that there were plans to release an extended cut of “Dream Cruise” as a feature film in Japan, a move also done with Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings,” from Three… Extremes. (I’ve lost track of that bit of news though, so I’m unaware at the moment what came of that curious decision.)

Parting shot 2: Apparently, Masters of Horror is kaput, though will be resurrected next year by NBC as Fear Itself. The MoH crew is pretty much intact, and team up with Lionsgate on Fear Itself.
Now, how being on a regular network (as opposed to cable) will affect Fear Itself remains to be seen. How de-fanged and de-clawed will it get?
As early as now, an announcement has already been made that the eventual DVD releases of Fear Itself episodes will basically be extended, unrated versions of the broadcasts, presumably with all the gore that network television will be hesitant to air.

(Dream Cruise DVD cover art courtesy of

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