ⓘ Pulse (2001 film)
Pulse is a 2001 Japanese horror film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. The movie was well-received critically and has a cult following. An American remake, also titled Pulse, debuted in 2006 and spawned two sequels. The script was also adapted into a novel of the same name by Kurosawa himself.
1.1. Plot First story
Kudo Michi Kumiko Asō, an employee at a plant shop, has recently moved to Tokyo. Her co-workers include Sasano Junko, Toshio Yabe and Taguchi, who has been missing for some days working on a computer disk. Michi goes to visit Taguchis apartment and finds him distracted and aloof; in the middle of their conversation, he casually makes a noose, leaves, and hangs himself. Michi and her friends inspect the disk he left behind and discover it contains an image of Taguchi staring at his own computer monitor, creating an endless series of images. In the other monitor on his desk, they discover a ghostly face staring out into Taguchis room.
Yabe receives a mysterious phone call of a distorted voice repeatedly saying, "Help me." Upon checking his phone, Yabe sees the same image found on Taguchis disk. He goes to Taguchis apartment and sees a ghostly black stain on the wall where he hanged himself, before finding a crumpled piece of printer paper bearing the words, "The forbidden room." Upon leaving, he notices a door sealed up with red tape and enters, encountering a ghost. Yabe becomes depressed and uncommunicative, and eventually begins hiding in a storage room. He tells Michi that he had seen something horrible in "the forbidden room." On her way home, Michi sees a woman hurriedly sealing a door with red tape. Michi later witnesses the woman jump to her death from a silo at a cement factory.
Michi receives a call like the one Yabe had received, prompting her to check on him in the storage room. Upon entering, she sees a black stain on the wall similar to the one in Taguchis apartment. Michi leaves to find Junko and panics when she realizes Junko has unsealed and entered a red-taped door. Inside, Michi witnesses Junko being cornered by a ghost. Michi rescues Junko, who becomes catatonic as a result of the encounter. Later, Michi is asked by Junko if she "will die this way," to which Michi assures her she would not, prompting Junko to reply that she would just "keep living all alone." Upon saying this, Junko steps towards the wall and becomes a black stain. Michi calls her mother for solace, but gets no reply. Becoming worried, Michi goes to check on her mother and meets Ryosuke Kawashima.
1.2. Plot Second story
Ryosuke Haruhiko Kato, an economics student, has recently signed up to a new Internet Service Provider. His computer accesses a website by itself, showing him disturbing images of people alone in dark rooms, exhibiting bizarre behavior. That night, Ryosuke wakes up to find his computer on again; the site now shows a man with his face obscured by shadows, then a man with a plastic bag over his head. Before he pulls it off, Ryosuke unplugs his computer in a panic. The next day, Harue Karasawa Koyuki, a post-graduate computer science student, suggests he either bookmark the page or print the images for her to examine. Ryosuke attempts to do so, but finds that his computer will not follow his commands. Instead, a video plays of the man in the plastic bag standing in a room with the words "HELP ME" written all over the walls.
A classmate mentions the appearance of ghostly-looking people around campus and explains his theory that souls have begun to invade the physical world. Karasawa begins exhibiting strange behavior and suggests that ghosts would want to save humans from the loneliness of the afterlife by bestowing immortality on them. Later that night, Ryosuke visits Harue to find her acting even stranger; the two try to escape to a faraway place using the subway. However, the train stops and Harue is seized by a desire to return home and flees. Upon returning to her apartment, she claims that she is "not alone". When Ryosuke bursts into her apartment later, she is gone.
As more and more people begin to vanish, evacuations of Tokyo begin. There are ghosts appearing everywhere. Ryosuke meets Michi and they find Harue in an abandoned factory, where she shoots herself. Ryosuke later wanders through a door sealed up with red tape and encounters a ghost who explains that "death was eternal loneliness." Ryosuke loses the will to live, and Michi has to drag him to safety. They drive through a burning Tokyo, encountering apocalyptic scenes such as burning vehicles and buildings, as well as a U.S. Army cargo plane which crashes from the sky. The pair find a ship about to depart Tokyo, crewed by a small group of survivors who tell them that similar events are happening all over the world. As the ship heads for Latin America, Ryosuke and Michi go below deck, where Ryosuke disintegrates into ashes.
Pulse was first released in Japan on February 3, 2001, where it was distributed by Toho.
Distant Horizon purchased worldwide distribution rights to the film from Daiei. The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film was released on DVD by Magnolia Home Entertainment on February 21, 2006. Arrow Video has announced a Blu-ray release of the film for December 2016.
As of October 2019, it is included as part of the subscription service run by the BFI.
3. Critical reception
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 74% based on 53 reviews, and a rating average of 6.8/10. The websites critical consensus reads, "A sinister spine-tingling techno-thriller whose artistry lies in the power of suggestion rather than a barrage of blood and guts or horror shop special effects."
AllMovie praised the film, writing "The first 30 minutes of Kairo is perhaps some of the most unnerving, frightening sequences to come down the pike in a long time." Anita Gates of The New York Times wrote, "There are very few moments in Kiyoshi Kurosawas fiercely original, thrillingly creepy horror movie that dont evoke a dreamlike dread of the truly unknown." Slant Magazine gave the film four stars out of four, writing "Kurosawas movies have a genuinely unnerving effect on the viewer because they deal with the kind of loneliness that exists in an overcrowded world. makes close to a shred of sense". The Seattle Times criticized the films storyline and length, writing "While its rattling your nerves, Pulse leaves your brain wanting more", and The Village Voice called the film "at least half an hour too long".
In 2012, Jaime N Christley of Slant magazine listed the film as one of the greatest of all time. In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Pulse placed at number 65 on their top 100 list.