Pulse (aka Kairo/The Circuit, 2001)
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki,
Shinji Takeda, Koji Yakusho, Sho Aikawa, Jun Fubuki
An Internet site that asks the question: Do you want to meet a ghost, leads to people committing suicide and others to question, who are the actual ghosts? The souls of dead people, or the soulless people who sit at their computers endlessly and lonely.
If you are of the opinion that Japanese horror movies start and finish with the Ring trilogy, then allow me to right that wrong and introduce you to Pulse. The first hour or so of this movie is so jam-packed with eerie, skin crawling, shiver inducing moments, it gets to the point that you scream “enough already!” But there is more to it than frequent frights. It questions whether all these new methods of communication e.g. Internet and mobile phones etc have actually led to less communication rather than increased it. Those lonely people sitting at home surfing the web. Could they be described as “live ghosts”?
Yes this is an internet related terror tale but forget the American simplified shit on a stick barf bags like Feardotcom, this is subtle and quiet but still in your face. It doesn’t say that machines will take over, it looks at how this technology affects us on a personal level. It doesn’t ram it down our throats either but nudges us just a little bit to make us think.
In the hands of a lesser talent this could have ended up a disaster but in the hands of Kiyoshi Kurosawa he has crafted a classic chiller. His technique is simple. He doesn’t signpost the scares he lets them happen subtly and slowly. We see what the characters see, the way they see it and when they see it. The audience shares the experience. Unlike American made horror movies where the scares are pointed out to us with flashy camera work, flashier editing techniques and a musical cue just to make sure we don’t miss the point. Also his use of deep focus, so that the backgrounds and foregrounds are in full view for a ghostly figure or object to move by and grab our full attention. The camera is almost always at a distance from the action so the surroundings play an important part in the shot or scene also. These low-key devices deliver high impact scares and it makes you wonder why American and European directors insist on using bombastic, sledgehammer tactics to try and scare their audience. Yeah, it’s a nice technique, but only in small doses. This “quiet horror” is the way to go. Just look at the Americanised version of Ring (2001). An okay film but it prepares the audience for the scares therefore diluting the experience. And guess what, there is a remake of Pulse coming soon (courtesy of Wes Craven) to a multiplex near you. Well, if it means getting the original noticed it won’t be a totally bad thing.
Regardless of the quality of Cravens re-make, Kurosawa has proved beyond any doubt that the horror genre when done right for an intelligent adult audience can be classy and arty and entertaining and thought provoking. I mean, a teen audience wouldn’t last very long with this one. There’s hardly a drop of blood and the female characters stay fully clothed for the duration. No doubt the American version will have a smattering of both to make it more palatable.
If the Ring movies worked for you then this has to be on your have to see list. It has numerous freaky moments. Try watching it with the lights out or, if you are really brave, by yourself. An underwear change will definitely be on the agenda.
Review By Martainn Russell.
© Owned Martainn Russell 25/3/2004 9:11 PM