Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast – Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Asô, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Shinji Takeda, Jun Fubuki, Shun Sugata, Kôji Yakusho
Release Year – 2001
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I saw the American remake for this Japanese film back when it debuted in 2006 and honestly had no idea that it was even a remake(didn’t do my homework). While I found that remake to be an OK watch on a boring Saturday afternoon, I really HAD to give this original entry a watch simply because of all of the great buzz behind it. Thankfully, this film did its job in not only suckering me into the story but giving me some genuine chills that I rarely receive these days.
Pulse follows a group of Japanese university students who’s friend abruptly commits suicide after entering a website that promised to show him a ghost. Soon after his suicide he begins to contact them asking them for “help”. The strange occurrences do not end there, and the group is soon exposed to a dark force hidden within the shadows of the city. Time is of the essence as they investigate this phenomena while their friends and cohorts slowly die off in mysterious fashion. The dead are desperate, and they are coming for mankind.
This film’s overall plot is what really intrigued me and grasped my attention. I am a big fan of anything having to do with technology, and when you throw in another element I love, the paranormal, you have my devout attention. I was a bit surprised to see that this film had less of a technological element than the remake did, but that is not a bad thing whatsoever given we get some good scares in this film.
Writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa(no relation to Akira Kurosawa) did a fantastic job setting up the mood and atmosphere for this film with his overly dark and gloomy sets complimented with grainy cinematography. Just from the look of this film I was thinking “I know it isn’t, but I would not be surprised if this was a mid-90s film”, which goes to show just how grainy he was able to get his visuals. His scare scenes were great and very effective, and I give him much respect simply because of how simple the scare scenes were. We got no cheap or cliché jump scares and were exposed to legitimate and execution-based scares that gave me some much appreciated willies.
The storyline itself is an OK one, and I say that because despite me enjoying the overall plot we do get some dragging scenes that maybe should not have been done away with but just tightened up for pacing issues. This film is just a minute short of a two hour runtime, and I spent about 30 minutes of that runtime finding myself a bit unsatisfied and in all honesty…bored. Like I mentioned, the scenes I found myself feeling that way really were not at all useless, just overly long and needing a trim. Part of the reason behind these scenes is that we get a fair amount of character drama as well thrown into the horror, which I can appreciate. None of the characters in the film were useless and all served their purpose in moving and developing the story, as well as the conflict. The horror is not the only conflict we face as the characters come with their own demons and abilities/inabilities to fight off what is going on around them. The term “only the strong survive” really is shown to us in this film.
So how is the horror? Well, aside from the scares I really liked the usage of the ghosts in this film. Without giving too much away, the ghosts are simply running out of room in whatever dimension they reside in, and are forced to leave their realm for the most readily acceptable environment they can find, which just happens to be the internet(given the website mentioned earlier) and then our own world after that. I honestly have never EVER seen this used before in the horror genre(regarding ghosts, George A. Romero used the “running out of room“ notion behind his zombies in Dawn of the Dead), so this gets some creativity points in my book.
Overall, this is a positive watch that I would recommend to fans of Japanese horror and supernatural/paranormal films. If you saw the remake and were left anything but satisfied then I suggest you give this a watch and see how great and creepy this story really is.