Starring Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, and Shinji Takeda
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Distributed by Magnolia Home Entertainment
As horror fans we have seen hordes of everything come to attack the living — from nature’s natural killers like bees, spiders, and piranhas to a throng of bad PG13 horror films and remakes. From movie theatre dwelling demons to legions of zombies of both the running and shambling varieties, we’ve had it all thrown our way. Maybe we breathing folks are just too easy to pick on. It didn’t matter though because we always found a way to do in the big bads that have plagued us. But what if a new threat arose that couldn’t be dealt with? What if our explosives, flame throwers, and well placed head shots did not have an effect on this latest menace? What if they were ghosts? How do you kill a ghost? They’re not physically here. I suppose you could contact the clergy and maybe the little fat chick from Poltergeist for some exorcisms, but what if even they were outnumbered? What if we’re all outnumbered? These are the questions raised by the Kiyoshi Kurosawa J-Horror masterpiece Pulse, and you know what? That’s a damn scary premise.
The story follows the exploits of four characters that have been dealing with these problems. Their friends have been committing suicide, and people seem to be disappearing at alarming rates. Then even our very best friend, technology, begins to turn on them. Phone calls come through with the dead asking for help, and their PC screens are now haunted by phantoms from another dimension. A dimension of death. “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the Earth.” That rule applies here too but in a much different way. It seems that since the beginning of time when people have died, they’ve gone to this death dimension. This dimension is now brimming over with souls that no longer have room to exist there, so what do they do? They spill over into ours. They begin to take over our world. An endless army of spectres are now looking to move into our place of existence. They use our minds as weapons against us. Driving us mad. Driving us to suicide to further increase their numbers and solidify their hold on both dimensions.
If there is one thing other than electronics that Japan outdoes America at, it’s scary ghost stories. We have a few winners here and there, but the Japanese have proved themselves to be consistent purveyors of supernatural fright. Pulse is a stunning example of that. The scares come hard and heavy, and the film has a true apocalyptic feel to it that resonates chills. Some of the imagery used in the film are truly the stuff of nightmares no matter what language you speak. It’s not without its faults though. Sometimes J-Horror is a bit more spiritually complex than American. Storytelling is not as black and white. At times Pulse‘s story line seems a bit convoluted, and one has to pay a lot of attention to really understand what is going on. That’s cool too though, as we shouldn’t always be so spoon-fed when it comes to entertainment; however, some may be put off by this. I can almost hear the average ADD afflicted thirteen-year-old complaining that they’re confused, and that this film is boring. But hey, I guess that’s what bullshit like Cry_Wolf is for. Every film has its audience. Pulse is without question a thinking person’s horror film, layered in frights.
On the DVD side of things we get kind of a skimpy package. Other than a trailer for the film and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Pulse, there’s not much to speak of. However, the “making of” is pretty fascinating. At a run time of about 40 minutes, we get to see how the Japanese handle film-making. Anyone that has watched a behind-the-scenes DVD extra of just about any film will instantly notice the difference. U.S. sets (with the exception of indie films) are usually manic and bustling with activity. The set of Pulse, just like the movie, is controlled, quiet, and deliberate. It’s really an interesting contrast to American film-making. Good stuff, but like I said, kind of skimpy.
So there you have it. The verdict — Pulse is pulse-pounding (say that three times fast) horror that should not be missed by any fan of the genre. Once the American made remake of this film rears its head, I’m sure this, like Ju-On, will start getting the attention that it deserves, but why wait? Be the cool and informed kid on the block and see Pulse as it was meant to seen NOW!
The Making of Pulse featurette
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