Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
One would have hoped that the second and final season of Masters of Horror would go out more with a bloody bang than a whiny whimper, but hey, one can't always get what he wants. As a pretty big fan of the Showtime series (which is to say I think more than half the episodes are worth watching), I was looking forward to closing the collection with a bang. Unfortunately, I'm pretty certain that the 26th episode of the anthology series is the very worst of the lot: Dream Cruise is dry, draggy, and all but completely inert, sorry to say.
Dream Cruise comes from Japanese director Norio Tsuruta, who has done some solid shorts and the feature film Yogen (Premonition) -- but I seriously doubt that this makes him a "horror master," per se. And his choppy and languid storytelling techniques certainly don't help matters all that much. The story, what there is of it, goes like this: Jack (Daniel Gillies) is an American lawyer working in Japan. Despite being terribly afraid of the water, Jack must climb on board an old friend's yacht in order to get some crucial paperwork signed. Oh, and Jack once had an affair with the guy's wife. (And Eiji, the guy, knows it.)
That plot synopsis covers about one full hour of Dream Cruise's running time. The extra 20 minutes of this (oddly overlong) episode consists of ham-fisted flashbacks about A) Jack's childhood memories, and B) the fate of Eiji's first wife. Neither of the b-stories are worth the time and effort the director invests in them. And since this is a J-horror movie, you can (of course) expect to see some haunted hair, creepy kids, and contorted corpses before it's all over. Too bad none of it comes close to congealing into a fresh or engaging story.
Poor Dan Gillies is saddled with an underwritten role and a clumsy director. (Count how many times the actor is asked to fall down and / or look confused.) Ryo Ishibashi contributes little beside a suspicious sneer and a swinging anchor. And as the untrustworthy female part of the equation, Yoshino Kimura comes off as flat and hardly worthy of all the anguish.
So it's a slice of The Ring and a splash of Dead Calm, minus the originality of craftsmanship that made those movies so cool. Basically it looks like the S.S. Masters of Horror just sailed into port with the cheapest and quickest mini-movie they could toss together. Plus it's really, really boring.
The good news for the MOH completists who simply must own every episode: The DVD comes complete with a handful of worthwhile extras. There's a 28-minute making-of featurette that's considerably more engaging than the feature film. Also included is a laid-back commentary with actor Daniel Gillies and MOH producer Mick Garris. You'll also find a stills gallery and a few trailers and such.
So while I'd stand firm with the assertion that "more than half" the episodes are worth checking out, Dream Cruise ranks at right near the bottom. Right next to that ridiculous Ice Cream flick.