Trivia The shot of a woman leaping off the side of a building is a relatively simple combination of careful editing, computer graphics, and stunt work. As director Kiyoshi Kurosawa explains it, a stunt-woman was filmed bungee jumping off the rooftop, followed by a dummy dressed in the same clothes; the two shots were edited together and the bungee cord digitally erased.
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Pulse (Kairo) (2001)
21st Jan 07
A philosophical spin on the conventional ghost story, Pulse sees a small number of Japanese youngsters, most of whom do bugger all work at a rooftop nursery they are employed at, muse about the pointlessness of their existence as the Internet acts as a gateway for ghosts to pop back into the world of the living.
Review “Would you like to meet a ghost?” asks the movie’s tagline. You may not meet one whilst watching Pulse but you will certainly look like death warmed up come the end of this self-important slice of Japanese horror.
Produced, written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who infected his way into the horror fan’s consciousness with 1997’s Cure (Kyua), Pulse sees him wave a critical finger at the negative effect he feels technology, here the Internet, has had on Japanese people. Kurosawa has drawn on the phenomena known as Hikikomori meaning ‘acute social withdrawal’.
The director sees this phenomenon a direct result of people being overwhelmed by such technology. Whilst dressing his story up in such a meaningful fashion Kurosawa has lost sight of the fact that saying technology is bad is not exactly a new concept in Japanese horror - Hideo Nakata’s The Ring (Ringu) anyone?
Any movie that presumes the audience should be scared from the start rather than work on them to make them so makes me want to vomit. Guys, you’ve got to work the magic rather than expect it with spooky music and a young skinny cast that barely convince as they emote about things feeling wrong. Too bloody right things are wrong! Damn wrong! Pulse may have got um, the pulses rising amongst fans of Japanese horror for its release back in 2001, who drooled over its fusion of philosophy, the effects of the internet on society and zero-charisma cast, but it didn’t translate well to this viewer.
Eventually things settle into a groove and it becomes slightly more bearable to watch with the right amount of eerie tension to underlie the proceedings. It’s not long though before tedium eats into the good work done and the viewer ends up as cheerless as the characters running around aimlessly on screen. If the director had let things build more with his longer than standard running time than run with the material before he knew how to walk with it, things would be more thrilling rather than overwrought.
For example there is a scene where a TV goes on the blink and the young girl goes Crazy-Ape bonkers out and turns it off hysterically. In the real world even if you were still traumatized by a friend’s suicide you probably wouldn’t act like this. You would maybe bang the set in case if was on the blink and maybe fiddle with the knobs a bit but not just turn it off in a fit before running back to a chair in the corner breathlessly. If the TV set bothers her that much why doesn’t she just remove it from the room or go out for a stress-relieving breather instead?
The point that we are all alone is labored to the ninth degree, as is the notion that the ghosts are too and therefore we are alone in life and also alone in death. Everyone sleepwalks through the movie and to be honest I couldn’t figure what the Hell was going on. By the time the last hour kicks in I was bored silly with the inconsistencies. Take the scene on the train, there no one seen walking along the streets or driving in their cars so why on earth would some guy bother to turn up to drive a train when there seems to be bugger all people around? It’s convenient for the plot but fails to follow any known logic.
Pulse is less keen on thrilling or scaring the viewer, settling instead to bludgeon you senseless with its constant ‘we are alone even in death’ message, feeling smug and self-important. There’s some nice framing of the city come the ending and a cool aerial shot of the boat for the final frame – again repeating the isolation theme – but little else to recommend it. Pulse is the celluloid equivalent of rigor mortis; you’ll be bored stiff. For once the US version couldn’t be worse than the original, could it?
The disc also includes a ‘Making of Featurette’, which lasts an impressive forty one minutes along with the standard trailer. The Making of is fortunately not one of those where everyone is slapping everyone else on the back thingies. Instead it is behind-the-scenes footage showing the director setting up and running through scenes with the cast and crew. He appears to change his mind constantly about what he would like from a shot and frankly begins to irritate.
He talks much about how the camera can weave its magic and then in another shot we hear him say to the camera-guy, Junichiro Hayashi, that he isn’t bothered where the camera goes - just stick it anywhere. Hayashi should have stuck it up the director’s bottom if only to stop him speaking out of it.