Plot: What’s it about?
It is no secret that I like horror films. I watch my fair share every year, especially with Arrow Video being kind enough to send me releases every couple weeks. For the most part, I am pretty hard to frighten with a film. There have been a few rare exceptions – The Sixth Sense, It Follows, and The Ring come to mind. When I saw that the film I was about to watch was a J-Horror (Japanese Horror) film, I was simultaneously excited and worried. Without J-Horror we would not have The Ring, it was called Ringu there, which was one of the few films that absolutely scared me like crazy. Knowing the risks, I barreled ahead.
Pulse begins with a group of young friends discussing that their coworker is late. When one of them feels worried about the coworker, they go to retrieve the computer disk that they had been working on. Upon arrival at their apartment, the owner of the disk shows them where the disk is, and promptly hangs himself, leaving behind a shadow on the wall. Looking upon the disk, another coworker sees something unsettling in a photo on the drive. Meanwhile, across town another young man signs onto the internet, only to find himself in some strange video chat with what may be ghosts. Is it possible that the dead are crossing over into the world through technology?
Pulse succeeds as a horror film. It got to me more than any horror film I have watched this year and gave me nightmares last night, despite the fact that the plot is not something that I found the slightest bit plausible. The imagery that Kiyoshi Kurasawa uses is absolutely strange and familiar. He does not actually show any gore in the film, nor is there much in the way of violence. There actually is not much that looks all that “scary” in a traditional way, but the ghoulish wailing score that pipes in gave me shivers. In this way, Kiyoshi succeeded in frightening me and giving me nightmares. By not taking the easy way out on the scares, he kept me tense throughout the entire film.
I would recommend Pulse on its frightening nature alone, but I should mention a couple other reasons to enjoy it. The plot moves towards a really interesting finale that I could not have expected or enjoyed more. Is the premise of the internet being used for the undead ridiculous? Yes. Once you get past that one quibble, the rest of the film lands its marks.
If you are looking to be scared and for a somewhat “soft” entry into J-Horror, I recommend checking this one out.
Video: How’s it look?
Arrow did a great job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a 2K restoration. Fine visible grain is apparent throughout the entire course of the film, but the film’s visual design is possibly just not the most copacetic to the Blu-Ray form. I can not say if this was the film-stock that they used at the time, or what. I can only say that the movie has pretty decent fine-detail, but the graininess of the image may rub some people the wrong way that are used to the sharpness of digital filmmaking.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Arrow has provided a very capable Japanese LPCM 2.0 track that sounds absolutely fantastic and scarier than hell. I was convinced that this was a 5.1 track, because the sound design is at once immersive and creepy whenever it needs to be. Prepare for the ghostly howling score and some genuinely frightening moments on this one. Great stuff.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Kiyoshi Kurosawa: Broken Circuits (1080p; 43:53) an excellent and incredibly detailed interview with the director. He discusses his approaches towards direction, how he formed the ideas behind his best known films (Cure and Pulse,) how he started in the industry in “pink” films, and much more. Fans will be delighted at how in-depth this interview goes.
- Junichiro Hiyashi: Creepy Images (1080p; 25:03) an interview with the film’s director of photography. He discusses how Pulse was “objectively shot” by following Kiyoshi’s plans. A solid interview.
- The Horror of Isolation (1080p; 17:11) features Your Next‘s Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, who discuss how this film and some other J-Horror impacted their filmmaking. This piece is very relatable, while not quite as interesting as the interviews that had come before.
- Archival Making of Featurette (1080i; 41:03) – Another in-depth piece, this one showing Kiyoshi hard at work on the film and discussing items with actors. This is not as entertaining as the interviews, but definitely gives a good idea of what it was like to work with him.
- Tokyo Premiere Introduction (1080i; 7:04)
- Cannes Film Festival (1080i; 2:57) features footage from the film’s screening there.
- Special Effects Breakdowns – Included are four different scenes where the special effects are discussed. Of most interest to me what the suicide jump, which was achieved with a bungee cord.
- The Suicide Jump (1080i; 6:22)
- Harue’s Death Scene (1080i; 5:02)
- Junko’s Death Scene (1080i; 4:31)
- Dark Room Scenes (1080i; 10:18)
- TV Spots (1080p; 4:15)
- NHK Station IDs (1080i; 00:15)
The Bottom Line
Pulse is scary. No doubt about it. It managed to get under my skin. While certain plot machinations are hard to buy into, once you get plugged into this one there is no way you will not see it through to the end. I had not been this scared by a movie in awhile. If you are a fan of horror films that are actually frightening, I think this will suit your needs well. Arrow has also provided solid audio and decent video transfers with some excellent supplemental material. Recommended.