Pulse (2001)
Robert Winter on January 30, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1, Anamoprhic Japanese DD 5.1, Japenese DD 2.0 English Subtitles. 114 minutes
The Movie
Director: Kiyoshi Kurasawa
Starring: Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Shinji Takeda
Screenplay: Kiyoshi Kurasawa
Music: Cocco, Takefumi Haketa, Takeshi Haketa
Tagline: Japanese horror has a new master
Country: Japan
AKA: Kairo; The Circuit
Many people believe the human soul is a force of energy that's expelled from the body following death. Dependent upon religious or philosophical beliefs, where it goes is bound by personal imaginings of an eternal Heaven or Hell, or a Zen-inspired transitional netherworld that periodically ejects the soul back into a womb to start all over again.

When a young woman, Michi, discovers a close friend hanging dead by his neck in his apartment, she is shocked to later see his face on a computer screen. Investigating further, she and a male companion, Kawashima, discover a mysterious website which asks its users - "Would you like to meet a ghost?" Once logged-on the user can then come face-to-face with a dead friend or relative. However, in reality the cyber-apparitions turn out to be malevolent entities that scare the living enough to cause them to commit suicide.

Pulse is a fascinating, imaginatively parochial take on Day of the Dead. Japanese Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa depicts the afterlife as a realm that only has the capacity to house a finite number of souls. As the "population" increases surplus souls are stored in a place called The Forbidden Room - a rather innocuous, rundown building that's sealed up with red tape. When this building is demolished the souls are set free and must compete for space with the living in the three-dimensional world.

Like Liza Merril and Dr. John McCabe in the Lucio Fulci's The Beyond, Kawashima and Michi are at the mercy of an unstoppable supernatural force that has to run its course like a virus. They stumble through their ordeal trying to survive as each frightening, merciless layer of plot skin is slowly peeled back to expose more of the spiritual Armageddon.

To complement the apocalyptic nature of the narrative, Kurasawa employs a cold, industrial look to the Tokyo cityscape. Although the sun shines its natural light on objects, they appear effectively stripped of vivid colours as if a grey veil of melancholia covers the entire city. The result is that the untidy suicides seem more shocking and the intermittent nasty imagery is quite startling and truly horrific.
Pulse is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Although the very dark print (which was probably deliberate) suffers from intermittent softness and poor shadow detail, the majority of the transfer is pleasing to the eye.

The well-translated English subtitles appear as yellow text and are easy to read against light and dark backgrounds.
The Japanese 5.1 mix is fantastic. Like many Japanese horror films there is not really a score as such, but rather a succession of eerie metallic effects, operatic voices and mood enhancing atonal sounds and orchestral flourishes. The audio is engineered to great directional effect throughout the film. For example, a human voice asking for "help" has never sounded so menacing.
Extra Features
The main bonus feature is an interesting 39-minute behind-the-scenes "Making of" segment. It includes interviews with the Director and a host of on-set production footage.

Rounding off the package is a teaser, Japanese theatrical and US theatrical trailers, a brief stills gallery and Madman trailers for The Eye, Inner Senses and Dark Water.

There's also a small but amusing Easter Egg which can be found on the Extras menu. Scroll down to highlight the Madman Trailers option then right click on your remote. A speech bubble will appear above Kawashima's head making a statement about the look of his image on the screen menu. Then right click again and Michi provides a response.
The Verdict
Pulse is a grotesque cautionary tale of technophobia and overpopulation that resonates long after the final credits roll.
Movie Score
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