Hong Kong Cinema

Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

  • Made: 2001
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: PAL Region 2
  • Release Date: 27 Mar 2006
  • Company: Optimum Asia
  • Length: 115 mins
  • Picture: 16:9 widescreen
  • Sound: DD2.0
  • Language: Japanese w/ English Subtitles
  • Extras: Making of, trailer
  • Classification: 15


Kiyoshi Kurosawa


Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Shinji Takeda

Pulse is one of a long line of Japanese horror films to receive the remake treatment. In just a few years we have been given Western versions of the Ring and Ring 2, the Grudge and Grudge 2, Pulse, Dark Water, One Missed Call and most recently the remake of Danny and Oxide Pang’s Thai horror, the Eye. Whilst it’s great for the quality of some of these films to be acknowledged, we would probably be better off if the studios concentrated on trying to find the best Asia has to offer and maybe release them theatrically in the West, rather than just cannibalising the ideas for easy consumption.


The young employees at Sunny Plant sales in Tokyo miss their colleague, who was meant to produce some computer data at home but hasn’t been seen for a week. One of them decides to go and see him, and after a brief hello he kills himself while she is in the other room. On the floppy disk that he produced, his friends find evidence of a mysterious website, which seems to involve watching lonely people on their webcams. Meanwhile, a gormless student attempts to connect to the net and finds the same site, and strikes up a friendship with a girl from a computer class at college who is also interested in it. As use of the site spreads, more people start to kill themselves or go missing until one of the Sunny Plant girls and the student join up and desperately try and escape the end of the world.


Pulse is dull. The most exciting scene is when a ghost woman walks slowly across a room and peeps over the back of a sofa. The film is packed with odd choices, camera moves that jar the eye (and in a poor, not creepy way), inexplicable character reactions (a girl terrified when her TV goes a bit wobbly, despite little scariness to explain her reaction up to that point) and a barely coherent plot: the afterlife runs out of room, so ghosts come into the world via the internet, and make people lonely so that they turn into stains. There are poor CGI effects, the ghosts mostly consist of putting people into shadow or making them a little blurry and in general the characters never seem truly scared by what is happening to them, with reactions more akin to having marmite on toast thrust upon them.

At least Pulse does try a different take on the horror film, but the attempt at tying in the idea of existential angst and the spread of technological communication emphasising loneliness along with the traditional creepy-phantom J-horror falls flat. Films like the Suicide Club deal more successfully with these themes without recourse to the supernatural, and the majority of modern yakuza pictures that secure a Western release can be read as studies of isolation and self-destruction. A horrible moment of exposition sums the film up, when one character is used to deliver a monologue in an attempt at sewing together the sagging ideas of Pulse: "When there's no more room in the afterlife, souls are going to leak out..." etc. etc.


The picture quality is pretty average, which may be due to the original print but a film this recent shouldn’t really need remastering. The blurry subtitles are also burnt on. The ‘making of’ featurette included on the disc actually starts off with a few Japanese TV spots. Thereafter it’s a mixture of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the director, though there’s little here to clue you in on what they were trying to do. The only other extra is the theatrical trailer.


An older title that’s marketed in terms of it’s relation to other successful films should ring alarm bells, and unfortunately in the case of Pulse, rather than being an overlooked gem this is an example of distributors trying to cash in on the popularity of J-horror. Pulse doesn’t even enter the ‘so bad it’s interesting’ category – with the wealth of East Asian horror released in the UK, you’ll be hard pressed to find something worse.