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Pulse (Kairo)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme

Pulse aka Kairo (2001) has long been considered one of the key J-Horror films of the late 1990s and early 2000s alongside Ring (1998) and The Grudge (2002). It remains one of the two films for which director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is most highly regarded, the other being his earlier Cure (1997).

In a fascinating forty minute-odd interview on Arrow’s new, extras-stuffed release Kurosawa describes Pulse as a rehash of Ring. That observation doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Ring is about a VHS videotape, a death threat by phone and a deadly ghost named Sadako who crawls creepily out of a TV set. Pulse is about internet and mobile phone images before present day smartphones with their image-sending capabilities became commonplace. People seeing these images slowly lose their grip on reality and vanish into thin air by for example turning into a stain which then falls off the wall as little particles to be blown away on an air current. You can see how Pulse could be derived from Ring yet despite undeniable similarities the two films are very different. As slogans on some of Pulse’s TV spots on the disc put it:”Terror overflowing from the Internet”, “Can the Internet dial you up itself?” and “The Pulse Of Terror”.

As per its internet dial up reference Pulse very much harks back to the period in which it was made. Small candybar phones couldn’t yet do much beyond connect people to talk or text message each other. With no smartphones as such the mobile internet hadn’t really begun so the idea of sending an image by phone was a lot more novel than it is now. Desktop computers running the internet on dial up meant the internet wasn’t permanently connected. This volatile and constantly evolving, brave new world where lots of today’s everyday technology didn’t really exist was ripe for exploring our fear of the unknown.

The online world no longer feels brand new and intimidating like it did back then. In recent years Kurosawa has ventured back into ghost stories and horror with Journey To The Shore (2015) and Creepy (2016) respectively… [Read more]

Pulse plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme.

Released on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD on 10th July 2017.

Full review originally published on All The Anime.

Trailer:

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