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Pulse | review | dvd | Lollipop


by Chad Van Wagner

Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) has been getting quite the buzz for his recent work, but it's not the kind of buzz that many associate with Japanese film. Whereas the blood, guts, and goofiness get all kinds of attention (Ichi The Killer, Audition, Versus,) Kurosawa's recent work has been more akin to the slow, methodical contemplations of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky than early Sam Raimi.

Cure finally got a Stateside release a couple years ago, and the more abstract Charisma followed. Pulse is the final film in this trilogy of sorts, wherein Kurosawa explores the effects of loneliness, stress, and Armageddon. Not exactly fun stuff, and fans of the rough and tumble violence that has (for better or worse) come to typify the perception of Japanese cinema in America will not only be disappointed, but downright confused. Pulse certainly LOOKS like a horror film, and the upcoming (crappy) American remake certainly falls squarely into the horror cannon. What is this existential stuff doing in a movie about ghosts coming through computers?

It must be said that Pulse boasts an eerie atmosphere that rivals the original The Haunting in sheer oppressiveness and quiet chills. There's nothing big or loud about this film, but it managed to completely unnerve a couchful of friends who thought they were in for something much more traditional.

Essentially, the idea is that people, turning to their computers for companionship are eventually consumed by them, literally leaving nothing but smears on the wall. There's nothing flashy or loud about the death in this film, and it's all the more unsettling for it. The ending, like the other two in the "series," explains nothing, and leaves the viewer with more questions than they feel prepared to address. But it's precisely this ambiguity that makes the film stick, and it's why, after repeated viewings and a full four years after I hunted down a mediocre bootleg of it, it still sticks in my memory as one of the finest, most subtle, and downright unsettling horror films I've ever seen.

If Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer was a horror film in the gore, disgust, and violence sense, Pulse is its polar opposite, a film that scares the living shit out of you by whispering in your ear and dimming the lights. I only hope that it isn't too badly butchered by its American counterpart.


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