Thursday, October 27, 2011

Even though it was made over 10 years ago, there's something about Pulse (Kairo) that is still very relevant to the digital age. From the movie's opening credits, which feature an eerie dial tone before revealing a girl stuck on a ship in open waters, the viewer gets the sense that technology has caused something to go terribly wrong.

Certain objects have always been the gateway to ghosts and other forms of evil in horror movies, but it wasn't until the early 21st century that the idea of the dead coming for us through our computers wasn't full explored or used as a primary device for a horror movie. Considering how they far more technologically savvy than most Americans, its not surprising that Japan would turn out a movie about how the personal computer opens the door to an unseen and menacing presence.

A group of young students who heavily use computers soon discover that something is very wrong, that slowly this close circle of friends is falling apart. A younger man, less knowledgeable about PCs than most Japanese teenagers, stumbles onto a site that features a really weird screen, and gets a message that tells him "Do you want to see a ghost?" Disturbed and unnerved by this development, he responds by quickly turning off his computer and then telling one of the friends about this. Its also no coincidence that previously one of their friends committed suicide, or that one of the friends, a male, wanders into a room and encounters something truly extraordinary and quite frightening.

What Pulse does is smartly rely not only jump scares or any such easy tactics, but instead slowly builds up its frightening elements until they reach a fervor pitch that is rather shocking. The use of a darker color palate only adds to the film's mood, and its sense of dread is often punctuated with moments that are completely surprising, such as a girl falling to her death or a teenager getting a phone call from someone or something that only says "Help me," echoing as if trapped in another plane of existence. Clearly something darker is at work here, yet the protagonists fail to properly understand what is happening, as this is a mystery that is only fully comprehended when it is too late to really do anything.

Really the trailer gave away a bit too much, however by the film's midway mark plus the ominous opening really gives away the direction it is heading in, and the ending is a bit too muted for it to have true effect, although the cheerful end credits music is a bit confusing. I will admit that another viewing may be necessary to fully understand some of the movie's more intriguing themes and aspects, although certainly there is quite a bit expounded on the fact that the ghosts are not only crossing over, but are also existing due to people becoming even more isolated and alienated in a world where technology and computers allow them to stay at home and close themselves off from having to see other people. This message may be as much a clear warning, or at least is something worth further exploring, as many writers have done in arguing against the new forces of the digital world shuttering us away from real life experiences.

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