I love it when a film focuses so much on a certain aspect (or a few) that it sometimes forgets what it is doing. That's how I feel with "Pulse", the Japanese ghost film that eventually was remade into a far worse film for American audiences. This film does however, succeed on many levels far more than it falters, and has a great concept to boot.
Tokyo has been the brink of technological advances for years. As with all things though, there has to be a breaking point when humanity goes too far. This has finally happened as the internet has become a new portal for ghosts from the netherworld to seep into our realm. For a group of young people in Tokyo they must battle for their lives against these spirits that mean to teach them a lesson about how they live their lives.
"Pulse" actually runs with two separate sets of characters that eventually come together towards the end. Both have commonalities between the two, with the overarching theme of the film being an examination of loneliness in a modern world. The idea that technology (mostly the internet and computers with this film) being isolating inventions meant to keep people from interacting rather than a networking tool is one that brings to surface all kinds of sociological concerns about how fast technology takes humanity. Although at times this 'lesson' about how we live our lives is beaten into our faces with the sparse dialogue and some over the top moments of ghost encounters or suicides, it does carry the film rather well and accomplishes the task that it was set out to do.
The film also slabs on the atmosphere nicely. Like most of the Asian Horror films all the way from the beginning of the genre in those countries, "Pulse" ably balances the terror with suspense to create a creepy as shit feeling that easily blends into the post apocalyptic direness of the ending when all of the people in Tokyo start to vanish into the netherworld. At this "Pulse" definitely succeeds too.
Unfortunately, for its concept and atmosphere, it feels as though the film forgets to tell us a 'story' rather than a moral examination too often. It leaves a bit too much unexplained for my liking and many of the characters seem to be hollow representations of the broad strokes of what they exemplify in humanity. "Pulse" does sacrifice a little too much of a 'film' to get their point and symbolism across and although it leads to a nice layered flick to ponder, it does forget sometimes that its there to entertain too.
"Pulse" is a nice addition to a Horror fans collection but there are other J-Horror ghost films to add first. If you are sociologically minded then this is a great film to ponder and pick apart for its ideologies and how it goes about them, but otherwise just enjoy the soupy atmosphere and beautiful long camera shots with little editing.
BONUS RANT: What the hell song is at the end of this film? For a film that is so dire and thick with despair that is one of the most upbeat and hopeful songs you can tack on. Perhaps its symbolic of the right path humanity will be on, but man it took me by surprise. Enjoy those upbeat credits folks!
Written By Matt Reifschneider