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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look81.82%
Just Average: 9.09%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings

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Pulse (Kairo)
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by Aaron West

"A treat for those who appreciate innovative visual imagery."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL. Say what you want about the “Asian Horror Invasion,” but there’s a reason these artistic horror films are head and shoulders above any American creation. The fact is, American studios won’t take risks on artistic films, horror or otherwise, and I can’t say I blame them. Even the Asian imports can be so far out there that they aren’t palatable for mainstream audiences. They become cult classics, certainly, but that doesn’t mean they would sell tickets. Pulse is a good example as to why. For Pulse, the artistic visual imagery is what creates the “horror” rather than the events themselves, resulting in a flick that wouldn’t seem scary to the average slasher flick fan.

A series of mysterious disappearances and unprecedented suicides start taking place in Japan. The only common strands between them are the eerie images that appear on the victim’s computer screens. Pulse follows several young protagonist in their search for the cause of these disturbances, as well as how to avoid or get away from them. One computer-illiterate teen, Kawashima, discovers these strange images on his computer screen accidentally as he’s trying to get connected to the Internet. On occasion, the computer will dial the Internet by itself and load the web page in question, which appears to be a webcam into someone else’s apartment. The images creep him out, and he tries to find a way to stop them from coming up. He stumbles upon a computer science major, Harue, at his school who also notices some odd behavior, although not quite to the extent that he has. She offers to help him and they end up doing an investigation of sorts themselves. Another pair of young women notice people keep missing work at their top-of-the-building horticulture shop. When people do show up, they’re practically zombies (not literally, Romero fans). On top of that, people keep jumping off the building for no apparent reason. Yes, it’s a strange, strange premise.

It’s difficult to read the synopsis on paper due to its complex nature. It may seem conventional from reading the paragraphs above, similar to say a Ringu or Feardotcom, but I assure you, it is far more elaborate. If anything, it’s too far on the oblique side, perhaps requiring a 2nd viewing for some, but that also gives it more lasting value. It continues to haunt you long after you’ve left the theater.

The artistic elements come in the form of the lighting, or lack thereof, as shot by cinematographer Junichirô Hayashi (also worked on Ringu). This is a dark looking picture, with plenty of backlighting and silhouetted characters, much in the vein of Gregg Toland’s work. Only, this is not a black and white picture even though it may appear so on occasion. Kurosawa reminds of that on by occasionally using bright colors, such as a blinding, yellow car in one sequence, and adding significance to the use of red tape in several others. In addition to the lighting, several unique character angles are used, resulting in sometimes disturbing, but always-impressive photography. Kurosawa also uses a lot of long takes and tracks the camera around with the actors, often waiting for the opportune moment to reveal the thrilling portion of the shot.

The characters are flat out dumb, sometimes incompetent and I believe this is intentional. The computer-illiterate guy, Kawashima, for instance, has so much trouble installing windows that it almost defies plausibility. The ladies from the horticulture shop are as unintelligent as they are high strung, so when something bad happens they would rather freak out than do anything constructive.

All of the characters are somewhat detached from humanity and reality, but that goes along with the overall theme of loneliness. Kurosawa is essentially making the statement that although everyone is digitally connected these days, they are somehow even lonelier – cyberspace contributes to the disconnection of society rather than solving it – although they are hypnotized by the illusion of connectivity. The fact that a digital “virus” of this sort can spread so quickly is a direct relation to how connected and reliant we are on cyberspace. The dense protagonists may be the least likely to become hackers, but they are most likely to open the wrong doors and do the wrong thing in every situation, not to mention fail to grasp the gravity of their situation.

Let me again remind you that this is primarily an artistic film, therefore it is not for everyone. Some people aren’t impressed by visual imagery that enhances the experience of the film. If you are someone who wants to be thrilled in the Wes Craven fashion, then please avoid this movie like the plague. If you prefer slower paced, visually intensive pictures in the spirit of Wong Kar Wai, or even Tarkovsky, then you might find the price of admission worthwhile. For everyone else, just wait. The American remake is coming. It will undoubtedly be much more accessible than Kurosawa’s vision, although probably not nearly as satisfying.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12438&reviewer=403
originally posted: 06/23/05 15:59:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/17/11 Flipsider It doesn't need to make sense; for atmosphere this movie is untouchable. 5 stars
11/01/06 Indrid Cold Have no idea what it's about, but it makes Hollywood's attempts to scare you look pathetic. 4 stars
10/16/06 stephen king fan Good comment. The movie is not for slasher fans, but they should see it. 4 stars
8/26/06 K.Sear Same sort of commentary as Suicide Club but not handled quite as well. 3 stars
6/29/05 cristeen69 this is truly a weird film, very spooky use of computers as a vehicle for the supernatural 4 stars
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