March 17, 2008

Masters of Horror #26 "Dream Cruise" (2007 script/episode)

The Script
Undated draft. Written by Naoya Takayama and Norio Tsuruta. Based on the story by Koji Suzuki.

Man, what a mess.

Throwing out most of the original short story (three snobs on a boat encounter a random ghost), the writers concoct a new setup that's actually pretty decent in concept. Jack Miller, an American lawyer operating out of Japan, is in the midst of an affair with Yuri Saito, the wife of his client Eiji. Their secret liaisons aren't as secret as they'd prefer, because Eiji's caught wind and lures the two out to his yacht one evening so as to enact a bit of revenge... until the ghosts pop up.

Not only do we get a typical "shambling woman" ghost in the form of Eiji's first wife (whom he disposed of on the same spot), but we get the inexplicable appearance of a specter from Jack's past. None of it really makes much sense, which is the perfect way to describe this collection of nearly unintelligible "Boo!" scares. We get a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare, we get crappy ghost logic, we get characters who are obvious and grating, we get dialogue that maced my eyes.

It's an absolute mess that massacres the original short story, which was mediocre to begin with! If this were a first draft, I wouldn't mind, but this is the fucking shooting script. Pathetic.

The Episode
Directed by Norio Tsuruta. Written by Naoya Takayama, Norio Tsuruta, and Mick Garris. Based on the story by Koji Suzuki.

Right from the start, this episode comes off as little more than a cheap melodrama. Daniel Gillies is flat as a board in his performance of Jack, an American lawyer working out of Japan. One of his clients is Eiji, a skeevy businessman whose menace is killed by Ryo Ishibashi, who clearly projects his intentions with a cackling hyena grin. What are those intentions? Revenge, of course. Jack, you see, is currently in the midst of an affair with Eiji's wife, Yuri, whose conflict and guilt are marvelously captured by Yoshino Kimura in the only great performance of the piece.

So in his quest for revenge, Eiji lures the two onto his yacht in an opening half that's directed with all the energy of a dead squirrel on the side of the road. But then... the ghosts show up.

I'll give the crew credit, things pick up a bit in this second half. Not only does Gilles finally come to life a bit, but a twist in the story gives Ishibashi a dash of genuine creepiness. And there's some nice sequences like a vision in a flooded bathroom or a fight with a severed arm, both of which work much better on screen than they do on paper. Hell, even though she glows like a neon bulb, the traditional shambling woman mostly works, thanks to some fine contortions from Miho Ninagawa.

So yes, it does get better in the second half, but none of that makes up for an absolutely dead first half and a terrible, terrible script. Anyone interested should go read the short story instead. No, it's not one of Suzuki's greatest, but it beats the hell out of this shit.

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