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2005 - NR - 118 Mins.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Producer: Yasuyoshi Tokuma
Written By: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring: Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kureme Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:

ooooooooo! computers are scary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Before both Japanese and American versions of ‘The Grudge’ and ‘The Ring’ scared American audiences, Japanese horror director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, scored a film festival hit with 2001’s ‘Pulse,’ being released theatrically in 2005 in the U.S. Set in a generic college in Tokyo, a number of young people are committing suicide after seeing something terrible on the Internet. There are plenty of interesting if clichéd elements in ‘Pulse’ – in the heart of megapolis Tokyo, ghosts in the machine are seeping through the Web. Hit the wrong web site by accident, and the casual surfer will be fixated by ghost cam and driven insane.

While Kurosawa is cinematographically similar to Takashi Shimizu (‘The Grudge’) and Hideo Nakata (‘The Ring’), ‘Pulse’ suffers without a special effects budget nor a developed sense of editing or plot. The film drags on with long tracking shots and moments of silence designed to enhance a feeling of unease. As Tokyo becomes depopulated, the eerie minimalist street scenes are reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s ‘28 Days Later’ or other abandoned city classics like ‘The Omega Man’ or Scorsese’s ‘After Hours.’

But ‘Pulse’ often feels like a student film or an art film with unbearably pretentious dialogue about the loneliness of being a ghost. The students of this un-named school or college move around the city or classrooms zombie-like, pondering if shadowy apparitions are real – or if they have a bad Internet connection. Any social-philosophical message about the solitary nature of existence is lost in between long periods of inactivity. Watching someone stare blankly at a computer screen or wall doesn’t help time pass very easily. As an annoying bonus, add a cornball soundtrack where an opera singer wails like a banshee for the final layer of cheese in film.

American audiences may recognize the lead actress, Koyuki, from the Tom Cruise Japanese epic, ‘The Last Samurai.’ She stars in ‘Pulse’ as a computer lab instructor who is somehow connected to the ghosts on the Net. She’s also the character who spouts her musings about the philosophy of loneliness and ghosts, ad nauseum.

Most likely, like the other Asian horror flick, ‘The Eye,’ ‘Pulse’ will end up being remade to suit American audiences – some tighter editing and a good dollop of special effects. But a horror movie with a high tech setting has been done before. ‘Fear Dot com?’ ‘White Noise?’ Has the J-horror well run dry?

Stylistically, ‘Pulse’ is a stripped-down, bare-bones psychological thriller that is a good glimpse of better things to come from Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Film school students may want to check out ‘Pulse’ to see how a director’s style and approach evolve – but as slow and ponderous as it is, this movie seriously lacks a pulse.
Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

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