Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Pulse (Kairo)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
5 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Haruhiko Kat˘ as Ryosuke Kawashima
Kumiko Aso as Michi Kudo
Koyuki as Harue Karasawa
Kurume Arisaka as Junko Sasano
Masatoshi Matsuo as Toshio Yabe
Shinji Takeda as Yoshizaki
Jun Fubuki as Michi's mother
Shun Sugata as Boss
Sho Aikawa as Employee
K˘ji Yakusho as Ship Captain
Kenji Mizuhashi as Taguchi

Special Features:
The Making of Pulse: behind the scenes footage

Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
Japanese 2.0 Stereo Sound
Running Time: 119 Minutes

Synopsis:
Pulse, or Kairo, was originally released in Japan in 2001. The following text is from the official description of the film:

"Often referred to as one of the scariest films ever made, Pulse tells the story of a group of young friends rocked by the sudden suicide of one of their own, and his subsequent, ghostly reappearance in grainy computer and video images. Is he trying to contact them from beyond the grave or is there something more sinister afoot? The mysterious floppy disk they find in the dead man's apartment may provide a clue, but instead launches a program that seems to present odd, ethereal transmissions of people engaged in solitary activities in their apartments. But there is something not quite right in the appearance and behavior of these lonely souls. Soon, there are more strange deaths and disappearances within the group, terrifying rooms sealed in red tape, and the appearance of more ghosts as the city of Tokyo - and the world - is slowly drained of life.

Predating many of the Japanese horror (J-horror) films that have been re-made for American audiences (including The Grudge, Dark Water), Pulse was originally purchased by Miramax in 2001 to make way for a re-make. Eschewing gore and easy shocks for a harrowing tone unique to his cinema, writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has made a dense and complex film whose metaphysical and psychological resonance will last long after the chills have subsided."

Pulse is rated R for some violent images.

Mini-Review:
I have to admit that I didn't "get" a lot of Pulse. I was fully on board for a creepy J-Horror flick, but despite my best attempts to follow what was happening, I found myself getting more and more lost. A spectacular yet baffling ending did even more to make me wonder what the heck I had just seen. I loved the idea of a ghost story. I loved the idea of tying it into the internet. I even loved the apocalyptic ending of the film. However, they didn't all fit well together into a coherent narrative. There were elements of a great story here, but the film script felt a lot like it had been put together like a Frankenstein version of several other scripts.

One of the most notable things about Pulse is its memorable imagery. The scenes with the ghosts will freak you out. They appear out of nowhere. One scene in particular where a man is approached by a female ghost will stay with you long after viewing the film. The motions of the ghosts are also disturbing. They limp, move jerkily, and are quite unsettling. Pulse also has some very disturbing suicide scenes. Several characters shoot themselves, but the most disturbing is a scene where a woman jumps from a tower and hits the pavement with a sickening thud, all on camera. It was a brilliant and subtle use of special effects. Finally, some impressive ending scenes of death and destruction in Tokyo would make even Godzilla envious.

Despite the haunting imagery and the great effects and cinematography, Pulse is an ultimately unsatisfying movie. The story just isn't fully there, at least for American audiences. If you like more existential, open ended foreign films, Pulse might be up your alley. Otherwise you might want to wait for the upcoming American remake.

The main bonus feature is a "making of" video. Like many Asian behind the scenes featurettes, this one features a lot of raw footage from the set. A cameraman essentially stands in a corner and films everything. That's pretty much what you have here. There are some interviews with writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, though.

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