Written by: KŰji Suzuki (short story), Naoya Takayama & Norio Tsuruta (teleplay)
Directed by: Norio Tsuruta
Starring: Lysette Anthony, Geraint Wyn Davies, and Blake Heron
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďI'll never forgive either of you."
For its season two (and, as it turns out, series) finale, Masters of Horror tried to repeat the previous seasonís formula by outsourcing to Japan. In that case, the producers brought aboard Takashi Miike, whose entry was promptly banned from Showtime upon delivery. Dream Cruise canít boast such infamy or star power; its director, Norio Tsuruta, has helmed some serviceable movies over the years, including Ringu 0, but heís not quite Miike (few people are, despite my own reservations about a lot of his work). And while that isnít grounds for immediately dismissing the episode (some of the better entries have come from ďminorĒ Masters), Dream Cruise still manages to send the series off with quite a dull whimper.
In Japan, American lawyer Jack Miller (Daniel Gilles) has not only found success but also love when he meets Yuri (Yoshino Kimura). Unfortunately, Yuri is also the wife of Jackís wealthiest clients, Eiji (Ryo Ishibashi). Even worse, Eiji is on to the couple and invites him out for a day of boating, which awakens Jackís fear of water, an affliction that dates back to his brothers untimely demise at sea when the two were children. Predictably, Eijiís motives are pretty sinister, as he leads the boat out to the middle of the sea, presumably with the intention of murdering the adulterous duo. However, he instead manages to awaken a spirit of vengeance that proceeds to terrorize himself, Jack, and Yuri.
For whatever reason, Dream Cruise can claim one interesting wrinkle: it might not have actually been banned from Showtime, but the network did trim it down since it was inexplicably shot as a feature film. The rare episode of his series could have justified such a move, but this isnít one of them since itís so draggy and obvious in its contentment to recycle typical J-Horror ghost bits (you can practically feel the presence of the obligatory wet-haired ghost girl the minute you realize most of the film takes place on the water). Itís easy to see where Showtime could have easily trimmed about 25 minutes off of this, as there are numerous instances of padding, especially once it degenerates into the three characters poking around the ship, waiting for things to pop up (itís usually a decomposed ghost arm).
Of course, a lot of this simply owes to the Japanese way of constructing these stories; those familiar with the likes of The Grudge and The Ring are aware that these films generally take their sweet time and thrive on a creeping sense of dread. This is a completely valid approach, of course (and obviously not the exclusive domain of J-Horror), but the great films pull it off with the oppressive sort of atmosphere that Dream Cruise lacks. Once the scares begin popping up in earnest, Tsuruta does manage some visual acuity with some creepy shots, including some cool makeup bits that live up to the high standards that Nicotero and Berger set in previous episodes of the series (the duo didnít work on this episode, but one gruesome gag will have you swearing to the contrary).
Arriving at these fleeting moments is a sluggish, airless ordeal, though; to its credit, Dream Cruise does attempt to switch gears by revealing a twist regarding Eiji and Yuriís marriage, but itís a clumsy transition that results in Jackís own plot being put on the backburner. When things start to get obviously spooky, heís briefly haunted by his dead brother, who attempts to communicate via the CB radio (a kind of creepy scene), but that ghost isnít heard from again until the ultra-predictable climax. Thereís a lot of moving parts for such a sparse, isolate setup, so at various points, Dream Cruise ends up feeling like both a ghost story and a supernaturally tinged slasher/revenge movie, and the haphazardly glued elements donít fuse into anything particularly satisfying. The sparse human drama fails due to the underwritten characters and some rote portrayals, while the horror elements are delivered with too much familiarity.
Dream Cruise is a pretty disappointing episode for Masters of Horror raise its anchor on; itís not the absolute worst the series had to offer, but itís among itís least memorable. On the whole, itís a shame there wasnít a proper third season (the series eventually morphed into Fear Itself and moved over to NBC for a season), as there were more hits than misses, particularly during the second season. Along the way, we saw a few guys (like John Landis and Joe Dante) revitalize themselves, and it even proved that Dario Argento wasnít too far gone last decade, so itís hard to find too much of a fault with the series. Ending on a sour note is one fault, though, and even the Anchor Bay disc feels kind of cursory; while thereís still a making-of feature and a commentary with Gilles and series producer Mick Garris, itís missing some of the more elaborate extras found on other episodes. The disc does feature the 87 minute uncut version, which canít be said for the various streaming versions that carry the 60 minute cut. In this case, however, that might not be such a bad thing. Rent it!
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