Plenty of Japanese horror films have storylines that vary from the oblique to the opaque. Pulse is no exception, so forgive me if this synopsis is a bit confusing (or confused). An internet website offers visitors the chance to see actual ghosts. Viewing the footage seems to make one vulnerable to an actual visitation, and when someone encounters a ghost, that person withdraws from others, shunning all society, and becomes consumed by loneliness to the point of suicide or something ev…n more bizarre. All of this is slowly being uncovered by two groups of friends, even as the plague of ghostly encounters spreads far and wide.
The narrative is disjointed, and tracking the characters and knowing who is connected to whom can be a challenge. But then, this can also be said of nightmares (when was the last time you had one with a coherent narrative?), and Pulse is nothing if not nightmarish, in every sense of the word. Both story and atmosphere are dream-like, we are for the most part spared the long-haired female ghosts that became such clichés after this film was made (2001), and the mounting sense of apocalypse is something one rarely sees in a ghost story, but boy does it work here.
Brrrrrr….. creepy. The audio track, though only 2.0, is immersive in the most disturbing of ways. The environmental sounds are constant, even when they are little more than the industrial white noise of the city, and the score delivers some very nasty shocks during the ghost scenes. There is one odd flaw which, though not a problem with the sound itself, is related to it, so I raise it here: the subtitles trail about a second behind the dialogue.
The colours are very dark here, verging on the muddy, but this is, as far as I can tell, deliberate. The result is certainly a very moody feel for the movie, adding to its oppressive sense of despair. There are a few scenes, however, where the murk does get in the way of properly seeing what is going on. There is also a fair bit of grain. Deliberate too? Hard to say. The aspect ratio is a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
How’s this for an extra you could do without: before the menu loads, you are subjected to five minutes of unskippable trailers. Deeply irritating. After all that, there is a 40 minute package of behind-the-scenes footage (subtitled) which includes interviews with the director. There’s also the movie’s trailer. The menu is basic.
Don’t expect the movie to make a lot of sense. Just let the nightmare take you.
Special Features List
- Behind-the-Scenes Feature