|Genre(s): Drama / Foreign / Horror / Mystery|
|Magnolia || R - 119 minutes - $26.98 || February 21st, 2006|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-02-21|
Writer(s): Kiyoshi Kurosawa (written by)
Cast: Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Show Aikawa, Jun Fubuki, Shinji Takeda, Kôji Yakusho
Theatrical Release Date: November 11th, 2005
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Plot Outline (from DVD back cover): A group of young friends is rocked by the sudden suicide of one of their own. When his ghostly image appears on their computer screens, something far more horrifying is unleashed. The terror mounts as more deaths and disappearances occur, Kurosawa's Pulse is a psychologically unsettling tale, which effects will endure long after the chills have subsided.
When I first watched Kurosawa's Pulse (or Kairo), I was scared, moved and confused all at the same time. On the one hand, I get the message of human connections and the role the Internet plays in tearing us apart... and pushing into loneliness. If you're like me -- someone who doesn't see too many Asian flicks --, you'll no doubt be lost as I was at times. However, in the end, I did "get" enough to find the film to be disturbing and sad.
Kurosawa's Pulse is an interesting and low-key horror-thriller which also contains a certain sadness beneath it which, although doesn't completely pull the viewer in, is still compelling to a certain degree.
I have to admit that as a reviewer who is still new to the Japanese-horror genre, I didn't really follow the plot (I also no doubt missed several cultural references such as the color red), but I will try to give a broad description: several twenty-somethings whose lives are changed after a friend commits suicide and strange things happen when ghosts supposedly haunt them from the internet. This, as some surmise and I agree, is the director's views of the World Wide Web where even though we "talk" on the Web, the more we do so, the more we lose human contact. In any case, as the movie goes on, more and more people begin to "vanish" and we're left with one of the more haunting tales I have witnessed.
Since the film is subtitled and is spoken in a language I can't understand, it is a bit futile to judge the acting skills. I can say, however, it seemed the primary players (played by Kato, Aso and even Arisaka) provided good emotion to their parts. The direction by Kiyoshi Kurosawa is tense at times, but not very scary in the least. Also, I found the picture as a whole to be too dark, not in terms of subject, but literally. There's a particular scene where one of the characters runs into a dark room and hides from something or somebody. They hide underneath a table and wait in silence as something approached. Problem is, I couldn't tell what it was. From my TV screen (so to be fair, it might look better on the big screen), it looked totally black. Because of that, why would I be scared?
Outside of some of the more technical aspects and language barriers, I still found Pulse to be a nice human story and a warning about the Internet and how more and more use it as their basis of communication. Pulse was actually released elsewhere around the world in 2001 so it is a few years old, but the message holds even more true today.
Overall, it is difficult for me to tell you whether or not you'll like it. As a novice for Japanese-horror, I enjoyed it despite its depressing nature. The story itself kept me at least semi-captivated and the apocalyptic mannuerism seems relevant. On a side note I noticed that, sadly, as with The Sludge and The Ring/Two, there is an Americanized version headed for theaters in '06... which, based on the casting, I doubt it will reach any kind of emotional level or send a message and instead will be a PG-13 horror flick with the empiness or loneliness those characters in this one felt.
Anyways, for those of you who are fans of the genre, will anything I or anyone else say stop you from seeing this? I certainly hope not.
For a better idea of the plot (as mine isn't very complete), check out this site: http://mandiapple.com/snowblood/kairo_pulse.htm
Magnolia Home Entertainment doesn't provide much in terms of special features... No deleted scenes, outtakes or commentary (one from an expert on Asian films would've been nice), but the one feature that is included is quite telling on how they make films in Japan.
The Making of Pulse - Surprisingly lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette that gives insight into how Kurosawa directed this film and how, in my opinion, perfectionistic he is with doing take after take until he felt it was done right. The most interesting part was setting up for the dramatic CGI scene toward the end. In between the footage are comments from the director, explaining his philosophy on filmmaking and on the subject of ghosts and the meaning of the film. Running over 30-minutes, it doesn't play like your regular featurette and it doesn't flow well, this one is better than expected.
The DVD also includes the trailer along with a couple other Magnolia films (which cannot be skipped).
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
B>Picture: The film, as it's supposed to be, is very dark and grainy which further escalates the terror of the story. The darkness also showcases a somber mood mixed with the horror.
Sound: The only audio track is a Japanese language, 2.0 mix. It sounds alright on the surround sound, but regular TV speakers probably are more appropriate as there's no depth. Have to wonder why the region 3 copy got a 5.1 Dolby mix, though...
While Pulse is a good movie that surely will strike some conversation afterwards, I'm not so sure what replay value it has. The movie itself is a tad slow but beyond that, you have a subject matter that -- at least for me -- don't want to think about a whole lot. If you're a fan of Asian films, then of course give it a buy, otherwise try and find it for rent before you see the Americanized remake.