Pulse (Kairo) Review

Movie: Pulse (Kairo)
By: Maniac E
Date: November 30, 2011

Visually perfect and a story to go with it

Kario (Pulse) is unlike any Japanese horror most people will see. As much as most people like the Ju-On series, the scares come from creepy ghosts that pop-up from unseen places. They are good movies, but those scares wear off after a while. However, in Kairo the ghosts don't pop up suddenly and they aren't accompanied by loud music. They are just there and boy are they creepy. Sometimes they do nothing, they just stand there, staring. It creates a feeling of unease and constantly keeps the viewer on edge.


Kaïro is based around two parallel stories: the strange events taking place among the employees of a Tokyo plant sales company, and similar happenings in the life of a young economics student, Kawashima Ryosuke (played by Haruhiko Katô). The film opens with a young woman, Kudo Michi (Kumiko Aso, who also starred in Ring 0), who is trying to track down one of the employees at the small plant sales company she also works in, Taguchi (Kenji Mizuhashi), who has gone missing for a few days. Their boss is waiting for Taguchi to provide him with a work file for the company's computer. Michi goes to Taguchi's apartment and finds him there, seemingly normal. She picks up the work file from his computer desk; however, when she goes into the next room to thank him for the disk, she finds him dead against the wall, having hanged himself while she was looking for the work disk.


The other employees of the company, Sasano Junko (Kurume Arisaka) and Toshio Yabe (Masatoshi Matsuo), are obviously also very shaken up by this unexpected suicide, and suspect that something strange is happening. When Yabe runs the so-called work disk in the company's computer, the disk connects him to a weird website, which shows a picture of Taguchi's computer desk, with the figure of Taguchi next to the desk, hiding in the shadows. Even more strangely, on Taguchi's computer is a picture of the whole scene, receding into infinity. The two women are frightened by this, and so Yabe decides to investigate.


I won’t go into the story any further but you understand things are being mixed together and the investigation will lead to some big story plots. The movie has an overall coldness to it. We learn next to nothing about the characters, so there's nobody to root for. Visually, the film is interesting. Kurosawa makes good use of dim lighting, shadows, and even an opaque shower curtain to enhance the sense of alienation, separateness, and strangeness that the film, in its better moments, conveys. Kurosawa has said that, at the time the film was made, the internet was much younger and less familiar. That, perhaps, makes the use of computers and the net as conduits for the supernatural a bit old-hat today, and lowers the scariness quotient to about two boos on a scale of five.


The visual style is simply amazing, it has a feel of Dark City and The Crow, but better. The movie starts out in a light and happy Japan, only to end with one of the most ghastly looking ghost towns I’ve ever witnessed. The skies are filled with a dark mist, and the silence is overwhelming- take the opening sequence from Vanilla Sky and add the atmosphere of the The Crow and you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.


Kurosawa's way of employing backgrounds as part of the on-screen actions deserves special mention. It is at once strikingly effective and deceptively simple, aided immensely by the camerawork of Junichiro Hayashi and Meicho Tomiyama's lighting design. Rarely does the director use the narrow close-up lens so often employed in American films, which keep backgrounds out of focus and isolate the character, or rather the star, from his environment. In Kurosawa's films, character and environment are inseparable, since the characters are defined by their surroundings. The significance of these surroundings goes far beyond being a simple décor, to the point of becoming characters in their own right, breathing, moving and living, as unpredictable as any of the human characters on screen.


Kairo is a triumph of effective filmmaking, made by a director who should be considered one of the most important filmmakers to work in the horror genre, in Japan or elsewhere. If only he could have spared us the jarring pop song over the end credits. That is the real horror.



Pulse (Kairo)


Pulse (Kairo)


Kiyoshi Kurosawa






Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Asô, Koyuki