Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pulse / Kairo (2001)Epic Japanese Horror Film By Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Pulse/Kairo Epic Japanese Horror Film By Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Kairo trailer

Pulse American Version Trailer

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Written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001, 119 min. starring Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kenji Mizuhashi, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Show Aikawa, Jun Fubuki, Shinji Takeda and Yakusho Koji.

Anyway I just saw a great Japanese horror film PULSE (Kairo ) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It came out in 2001 & the American English language remake is being released in theatres on July 14. It would be nice if they don’t screw it up .( This is quite a different kind of film from that of DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE aka CEMETERY MAN which I discussed in an earlier post .But some of the underlying themes are quite similar.)

The original film is rather strange & is rather surprising since it goes beyond the usual Japanese horror films ; the best of which are rather chilling & unnerving . In Japanese horror films of this type an evil spirit is created by some sort of violent death & the spirit or ghost consumed with rage passes it on to any who come in contact with it as in for example JU-ON 1 & 2 ( the Grudge ) or in Ringu 1 & 2 (The Ring ) or The Ghost or American films like The Changeling or The Others . These films depend more on atmosphere & startling images rather than blood & gore. This is of course a plus for those who are turned off by a lot of blood & gore . Some of us though can enjoy both styles of horror films .
The Ghost in these films are more like individual or specific hauntings whereas the film PULSE which is also not bloody or gorey & is dependent on atmosphere to create its horror but goes much further with such basic themes & is therefore more suggestive of an apocalyptic vision .

In “ Pulse ”we are presented with the stories of two different characters in the city of Tokyo as the mysterious , strange & chilling events unfold in their lives. So the film cuts back & forth between the two separate parallel stories of the young girl Michi & that of a young male university student Kawashima whose paths do not cross til near the end of the film .

The young woman Michi who works in a roof top plant store.
The story begins with Michi & her co-workers a young man named Yabe & another girl named Junco who have been trying to get in touch of another co-worker Taguchi whom they haven’t heard from in over a week & it seems he has been working on a computer disk ( a bit of foreshadowing) which they need . Michi decides to go to Taguchi’s apartment to check on him & get the disk . Michi lets herself into Taguchi’s apartment thinking he is not at home & begins looking for the disk til Taguchi appears coming out of another room . Michi tries to talk to him but he is not very reponsive & answers her questions in a disinterested & monosyllabic fashion. Taguchi then picks up a piece of rope & returns to the other room . After a few minutes Michi goes into the other room & is shocked to find that Tguchi has hanged himself .

When Michi & her two co-workers are sitting around discussing Taguchi’s death which seems to have been a complete shock to them & that there was no hint of him being so depressed that he would kill himself. While they are wondering out loud why Taguchi would suddenly want to kill himself, Yabe nonchalantly adds “ I get that way sometimes . ” This again helps set the tone & the themes of the film of loneliness & feelings of hopelessness & desperation .

Later on they watch the computer disk which Taguchi made & they see a picture of a room , a computer & someone standing nearby who looks like Taguchi & on the computer screen when they zoom in on the image they see the exact same picture on that screen & then the face of the deceased Taguchi appears & this they find unnerving & quite inexplicable .

At another point Michi’s boss says to her that one can not rely on friendships since it seems that sooner or later friends always say or do things which are hurtful to each other . He wonders that if this is so then what is left to give us comfort .
Building on this notion of being alone another character when mentioning her family says they are irrelevant . So both friends & family are of no help to us in our solitariness.

The film cuts to the story of the university student Kawashima who attempts to go on to the internet for the first time . He happens upon a website where he sees images of people going through everyday tasks but their actions seem repetitive . He shuts down his computer & it later comes on by itself opening on the same website & then it gets weird as the question appears on the screen “ DO YOU WANT TO MEET SOME GHOSTS ?” This unnerves him & the next day goes to the computer lab at the university & talks about this with a woman named Harue who is a computer instructor with whom he develops a relationship as they try to come to grips with what is going on .

In Pulse as people on first happening upon the mysterious website feel compelled to return to it they are then haunted & find what is referred to as the Forbidden Room & use red duct tape to seal off the room til finally the world of the dead overcomes them & they seem to be trapped for a period of time between the world of the living & the world of the dead . Then they die or disappear or commit suicide : jumping off buildings , shooting or hanging themselves etc. while others just literally fade into the woodwork leaving a black grease like stain . We see only a few examples of these deaths & the viewer is left to assume that this is what is happening to everyone .
A graduate student talking to Kawashima explains his theory about what is occurring He explains that he believes that the dead are just made up of energy like electricity and that according to him as it turns out the dimension or world in which the dead continue to exist has a finite amount of space & that once that space has been filled the dead will begin oozing into the world of the living by way of any sort of energy source such as computers, televisions, telephones & cell phones etc. So it is not just by way of computers & the internet that the dead are trying to enter our world . For example several times people go to use a telephone only to have some disembodied voice repeat the phrase HELP ME & nothing else. We also see this phrase written on the walls of those who have succumbed to whatever is happening .It seems to be spreading like a disease or plague or possibly mass pschosis.

This idea is similar to that of the belief as stated in the George A. Romero film “ Dawn of the Dead ” in the famous tag-line from the film : “when Hell is full the dead will rise ”.

Early on in the film Kawashima goes to an arcade to play computer games & the arcade is a crowded busy place but a few days later he returns to the arcade & he is the only person there & he discovers there isn’t even a clerk or attendant there. And when he gets on a bus it is empty except for himself & the driver . Remember this is Tokyo which is a big overcrowded city but now seems more & more deserted as the film goes on. Even when Michi at the beginning of the film goes to Taguchi’s apartment in the middle of the day the bus she is on is already empty so whatever is happening has been going on for awhile before people begin to take notice.



“...I don’t believe in ghosts. Even if I saw one I still wouldn’t believe . “ Kawashima says even after all that has happened . This is the last desperate cry of the skeptic . Maybe there is an afterlife but in the film “ Pulse “ it is nothing like Heaven or paradise or even nirvana ; it is just an eternity of loneliness . There is no peace to be found in death .
No choir of angels or winged angels no demons with pitchforks instead death appears to be something a little less dramatic though in itself quite disturbing to contemplate. The dead are aware of being dead & of being disembodied spirits who are condemned to being alone for eternity .
As is said by one character that all her life she had felt herself to be alone & so it shall continue in the same way after her death & so there is little difference in one sense between life & death . This is our life & our death. Death has no great mystery ; it is just a natural phenomenon. The dead are of no help to us. We cannot rely on them for anything. And we ,the living ,can not do anything to give the dead comfort . The film to say the least is chillingly bleak & apocalyptic.

It reminds me of the line in the Lovecraftian John Carpenter film” In the Mouth of Madness “ if you think my other books had an affect (on people) this one is guaranteed to drive them mad. “ explains the writer Kane who has been writing horror stories about some mythical gods which he believes he has created out of his own imagination but realizes it is all true & that it is the creatures whom he refers to as “ the old ones” who have in fact been influencing him & telling him what to write . The old ones are dependent upon those who believe in them & when enough people believe in them they will be able to enter our world .
The message of Pulse is as terrifying as that of the films “ In the Mouth of Madness ” or “ Dawn of the Dead ”.
It is therefore a matter of speculation whether or not the dead in PULSE in order to enter the world of the living need the living on the one hand to believe in them & also need the living to begin to question whether or not life is worth living .


See review at
Review © Mandi Apple, 2002.

check out the strange home page for the American remake of pulse

Also check out some entertaining reviews at MOVIEMARK

Anyway if you like horror movies & don’t mind subtitles check out the original Japanese versions of JU-ON 1 & 2 . As for RINGU 1 & 2, I preferred the US versions better than the originals but maybe that’s just me .


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