Pulse (2001)

Class: User
Author: Hank Xavier
Score: (4.5/5)
October 24th, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

As newer generations come, newer types of films cross through our paths, and considering the amount of remakes and sequels that have been released over the decade, it's important to consider those newer films as more polished and original. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse enters this category. It is a somber, frightening feature, which deals with themes such as isolation, and suicide, merged onto quite a unique concept for a ghost story.

It appears that a lot of suicides are being committed by the citizens of Tokyo, as a mysterious website which promises its visitors to see ghosts suddenly begins to pop up on the net. As a separate group of people decides to investigate, it is found out that the spirits from the Underworld are in fact using the Internet to invade our world.

What makes this movie scarier is the message that Kurosawa brings up through the scenes: Humans live and die on complete solitude. This means that even after committing suicide, a person will find itself trapped in the place where it died, missing all sort of contact with the outside world. Sadly, some of the sequences that precede the climax seem to get a slower and lengthier pacing than the rest of the film.

The photography also adds to the eeriness. No strong color is used for any of the scenes, and the brownish tint seen on many shots keeps the apocalyptic sense at the screen for most of the movie. Light appears to change through the movie, though the scenes with the ghost differ a lot from the conventional Japanese Horror.

Unlike other movies of this nature, the ghosts are barely seen. And even though the appearances go in the same vein of movies like Ring (1998) or Ju-on, the already-iconic long haired woman is completely absent. Instead the ghosts usually appear as shadows, or just in voices. It certainly is quite an original technique for the time being.

Music in this film is effective, yet it doesn't end up creating the same atmosphere the other factors do. This is caused due to the more dramatic tone towards the climatic scenes, rather than the disturbing type music. It does however become useful to express the characters' behaviors and decisions, as well as their consequences.

But going on the human side of the story, there is a lot of character development here. This follows two parallel stories. One is the life of Michi, a girl who works on a plant sales shop in Tokyo, who keeps witnessing suicides on most places she goes, as she tries to avoid her best friend from doing so herself. The other story follows Kawashima, a computer novice; very afraid of Death; who keeps a relationship with Harue, some woman who is rather obsessed with the idea of Life after Death.

Acting is very fluent here. There aren't any exaggerations or overreactions from cast, and each actor seems to fit in its role well. Kumiko Aso does quite a convincing job as Michi, so does Kurume Arisaka, the actress that plays Michi's friend Junko. She spends most of the movie in silence, making clearer her reluctance to live. Haruhiko Kato (Kawashima) is certainly a talented youth, and blends himself with the character realistically. Koyuki, better known for her role as Taka in The Last Samurai shows her performance skills as well.

The influence the film had on the western culture is obscure, yet apparent when seen at last. One good example is the 2002 horror film Fear Dot Com. A grizzly, messy film about a group of people who get killed after logging on to a mysterious website. The only difference with other J-Horror features is that the movie ripped several plot elements to make a seemly different film rather than remaking it.

But it wouldn't take longer until an actual remake was made. The 2006 American Remake by Jim Sonzero is like most of the reinventions from these stories (excluding the brilliant The Grudge), disastrous. This goes from Kristen Bell's erratic performance to the pathetic portrayal of the CGI ghosts, and surely more to be seen. But it isn't surprising to get a good piece of work from the East being manifested on a pile of garbage when being made on an appealing tone for American viewers. This of course refers to The Ring as well. This is caused mainly because it's hard to translate a concept from such an analytic film onto a public more accustomed to cheesy-type ghost stories.

Nonetheless, the original movie is without any doubt a must-see, both for casual viewers and for people who is looking for a good scare. So, with a great original story, a packed cast, and an atmosphere that's sure to provoke some good tension, the only thing I have to say is "Good Work Kurosawa!"