Sunday, April 02, 2006

commentary on Pulse (2001) Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Scares, I am reminded of a story my friend told me of two younger kids who rented The Brood for a sleepover and were so frightened of it that the put the tape outside of the house for the night. Then I think of the Crank Yankers when Special Ed calls the video store to find out if they have got The Shining. They have it. Well could they please take it out of the store, Special Ed wants to come and rent a video and The Shining scared him very much. By the way, that skit, which transforms into a bunch of Shining-like happenings going down at Special Ed's house, is the funniest Crank Yankers I've seen.

I try to stick with reviews for obscure, long out-of-print videotapes that have not been written about thousands of times on the internet, but once again I've got some things to say about a newer release. Pulse is a movie where the meaning is not explicate, and most reviews I've read do not try to explain what the filmmaker is getting at.

When I moved out to California 4 years ago Japanese horror was everything that was exciting about genre. In 2006, after 4 years of remakes, American rip-offs, and Asian sequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs, J-horror is no longer the definition of cool. If Pulse, which is getting recognition in America right now, had been made this year, instead of in 2001, the premise of ghosts transmitting themselves over dial-up modem wires would be inexcusably lame. This movie did follow Ringu, but predates Ju-on: The Grudge, The Eye, and Dark Water. Most Americans, though, have seen all those movie plus their remakes and are only getting around to Pulse now. Well, that's my story anyway. With that said, Pulse is not very scary today. We've seen enough ghosts already. Fortunately, Pulse has more going for it than conventional J-horror scares. The whole 2nd half of the movie is described by reviewers as inducing more of a general feeling of dread and doom rather than frightening us with straight forward ghost attacks. Pulse did keep me up late in bed last night, not because I was scared, but because I was thinking about what the movie meant.

What have I figured out - my interpretation - well I ran over a bunch of the scenes in my head, trying to figure them out. Spoilers up until Cub Speaks.

"When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.": That's pretty much the story here. The afterlife is full and ghosts are crossing over. They do not want to kill, as that would create more ghosts. They are trapping people in their own loneliness. A ghost says it himself, that he is forever alone. If that is Kurosawa's view of death, I don't know, but I doubt he would make a whole movie based upon something inevitable and unchangeable. The movie should be looked at for its views on life. The characters in the movie are alone. One girl rants about how she looks forward to death as she is alone in life. The thought of death being lonely as well brings on hopelessness.

Suicide: There are several suicides in the movie. It seems that people kill themselves after submitting to the ghosts. They then become shadow-like, but don't others become this way before or without killing themselves? Suicide is not the ghosts main objective, as they do not want more ghosts. None the less, the behavior of those who submit to ghosts is much like the behavior of people who intent to kill themselves in the real world. Shortly before suicide they appear normal, even carefree, as the weight of the world has been lifted off of their shoulders by their choice to escape.

Technology (the computers) is an excellent metaphor for the isolation. We try to use it to bring each other together, but really we are alone with the devices, not as together as we would be communicating face to face.

Salvation in this movie, survival, is achieved by being with someone else and talking to them. Still, some are lost who do want to live. Perhaps this shows how vulnerable we are to putting ourselves in positions of isolation, despite what we think are our intentions. It is too late for most of us.

Also, living with someone else will not save in only the literal sense will not save you. After all, all of Tokyo falls, and their were many families and married couples in Tokyo, if few in this film. That adds to the general ominous mood of the picture, as it hints that those who live together are still alone in this day and age.

The ending is very Dawn of the Dead, or even Maximum Overdrive... ok, maybe more Dawn of the Dead.

Here is
another review of Pulse, or Kairo, with an interpretation.

Oh yeah, the United States version of Pulse comes to theaters July 14th. I saw the trailer. It looks like absolute shit. Nerds have noted that the trailers includes FX shots from the original film. Whether or not these will be in the actual movie, or were just thrown in to complete the trailer on time, is unknown.

(Cub kind of looks like a ghost in this picture... no?) Cub, here is my theory on Forbidden Rooms. Sure they might exist as a cool plot device, but think of what a room is. All humans need shelter, sure, but rooms within the shelter only work to separate people. It creates literal walls between them. See what I mean, Cub? That is why we have evil rooms in this movie about loneliness.

I agree with your thoughts cub! Rooms do separate and in turn create loneliness (unless it's two cubs in a room. It was a good movie although it was not very scary.

Cub, would you agree that after about the 1st half of this movie, the ghosts, and the people changing from solid to shadows, are more sad than scary? They even shoot some scenes in daylight, not a scary atmosphere.

I thought the Grudge was scarier by far. But also it would have been more effective if we had seen it in a theater rather than on our tv. And I agree that the ghosts looked more sad rather than they did angry or scary. I kind of thought it was an existential film in some ways, would you agree?

(Cub has me stumped about existentialism...) Cub, Pulse did not leave you lying awake thinking about it, like it did me, you were out cold very quickly.

I actually had dreams about it all night long, even though I appeared to be sleeping soundly. They were not scary though, the movie just left me with thoughts.


Blogger toyrobott said...

that sounds like my kinda movie!

3:35 PM  

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