I hesitate to call this a review, because my reason for writing it has more to do with something out of real life that happened while I was watching it. If you're already familiar with PULSE, you'll understand why I was terrified, but if not, I'll explain to the best of my ability.
So there I was, watching PULSE for the first time through the magic of Netflix over the holiday weekend. It's this Japanese horror-ish movie about ghosts, death, loneliness, suicide, and modern isolation, especially in relation to some new-fangled thing called the Internet. Sounds crazy to me, it'll never last. There's a website that shows weird videos of what I assume are ghosts, and most of the people who see it become obsessed. They're drawn into forbidden rooms, places where others who have seen the website have died, and somehow it infects them with this overwhelming desolation that eventually destroys them. At least... I think that's what happens. I'm not 100% sure, I'll be honest.
Technology may have changed a lot since 2001, when PULSE came out, but it's funny to look back and realize how little certain aspects of computing have evolved. And this film has the most realistic portrayal of internet use that I've ever seen in a movie. One of the characters is setting up his connection for the first time, reading through windows, clicking on buttons, muttering to himself as he's doing it. My favorite part is when a user agreement shows up and he mumbles to himself, "What is this? ...Yeah fine, I agree." Some things really don't change. Not one of those agreements has ever actually been read, they could say anything at this point.
The weirdest part of my experience with PULSE happened near the end of the movie. No spoilers, I promise. There's a spooky blurry ghost on the screen, slowly creeping towards a character, and they shift the perspective as if it's coming towards you instead. Super creepy. I love and hate that tactic because it really gets to me.
Right at the very moment the ghost gets really close and you hear a dial-up noise... my internet connection cuts out, and the movie is frozen on the image of this ghost right up in your face.
That's the most unnerving, unbelievably disturbing thing I've ever had happen while watching a horror movie. It was WAY too on the nose. I almost didn't want to finish the movie when my internet came back on an hour later, but curiosity won out.
As I said, I'm still not totally sure what happened. But it's fascinating, and I love the social commentary. The ghosts were fairly terrifying for me, as they would just sort of appear on the screen with little fanfare. Beats jump-scare tactics any day.
I've heard the American remake is not worth seeing (big surprise there...) but both versions are on Netflix as I write this, if you're also curious. Just don't blame me if PULSE knocks your internet out, too.
Kairo (Pulse) via IMDB
Kairo (Pulse) via Netflix