Origin/Director: Japan/Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Viewings Tally: I’ve seen it twice! No horror marathon list should exist without a Japanese horror entry, and this is one of my favorites!
Synopsis: “Do you want to meet a ghost?” In the immense city of Tokyo, the darkness of the afterlife lurks some of its inhabitants who are desperately trying to escape the sadness and isolation of the modern world. [Letterboxd]
Reely Bernie’s Take:
Right between Ringu (1998) and Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), Pulse (回路, Kairo, 2001) led the way in the surge of Japanese horror movies in the early 21st century. The iconic image of a pale, round face surrounded by long, straight, black hair began to freak out the world, especially Hollywood “filmmakers” who shamelessly remade every single one of Japan’s originalities, including Pulse.
To appreciate Pulse, you must transport yourself to 2001 when two-way telecommunication jumped by 50% on the internet. There was a fresh fear of exploitation, privacy obtrusion, and computer hacking, and I as I write this, I realize not much has changed nineteen years later.
Well, at least we no longer have that irritating dial-up modem sound and the two minutes of waiting that came with it. Pulse believes there is a connection to ghosts in that white noise because they share the same isolation as we do when we become transfixed with the invention called “The Internet.” It’s a clever idea albeit a bit far-reaching.
The narrative is choppy, the acting is clumsy, and there are some scenes of overblown melodrama that go on way too long, but, in a way, all these shortcomings make the movie more unsettling. The amateurish innocence to the entire execution makes you wonder if the creators knew what they were getting into, and that’s kind of eerie in of itself. Even the white-glazed, overcast Tokyo skyline provides little room for relief, not to mention the cramped, cement-blocked apartment spaces these poor characters try to survive in.
Along with the claustrophobic setting, the ghosts that dwell on the computer screens and within the taped-off “Forbidden Rooms” are quite petrifying. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa choreographs their movements to a slow-motion ballet from hell, and, again, when you’re stuck in a tiny room, trying to escape these things is an impossible task.
Pulse still gives me the creeps, and I mean that in a good way. Any delineation between the “innerwebs” and the underworld should provide a few shivers for some of you. Please let me know if you’ve seen it too!
The Shot that Won’t Let Go:
Final Score: 3.5 modem dial-up buzz sounds out of 5