Starring: Haruhiko Kato and Kumiko Aso
Optimum Asia
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 27 March 2006

Concerned about the welfare of Taguchi, who has been working alone on a data disc and has been out of touch for a week, Michi calls at her colleague's apartment. While she is collecting the required disc, Taguchi hangs himself in another room. When the disc is played, Michi and others see static film of Taguchi's apartment. He is standing motionless, and the imagine on his computer shows the same picture. Meanwhile, technophobe Kawashima loads an Internet server disc. Afterward, it shows him a static film of someone sitting in a dark room. The chair moves closer to the screen, and Kawashima loses his nerve and pulls out the plugs. At odd moments, however, his computer continues to dial-up a connection by itself. Finally he seeks help from Harue, an IT teacher. A "forbidden room" sealed with red tape is discovered in Taguchi's old apartment, and there is an encounter with an apparition looking as lifeless as those individuals seen in the static film. All parties are to learn that there are other sealed rooms. The realm of the dead is becoming overcrowded and is beginning to seep into the real world...

Now this is more like it. Pulse is an intelligent, atmospheric and creepy film. It is eerie in the same sense as The Ring; this dates itself after that classic but before The Grudge and Dark Water. Ghost stories are what the Japanese do best at the moment. As I've reasoned in previous reviews, although entertaining, many horror films don't have the power to shock or chill anymore. The supernatural is the genre most likely to make the hairs on the back of our neck stand on end. Death is the only certainty in life and something we are all at least a little apprehensive about. Pulse strikes just the right balance of using technology with base instincts, with the emphasis in this case placed on lonely people who are being displaced.

Anyone hoping for Hollywood-style whizzes and bangs should leave this film to the more discerning viewer. Pulse is well-structured, with periodic moments of hair-raising terror for anyone willing to immerse themselves appropriately in the story. The scene in which Junco, a colleague of Taguchi, is backed into a corner in the "forbidden room" is a good set-piece, as is the moment when Kawashima is watching the hooded figure get closer on his monitor and, visibly shaken, he disconnects his computer before the figure can pull off the hood. The "Help ... Help ... Help ..." messages which come through are also quite chilling. Throughout the film you are under the impression these events are just affecting a close-knit handful of people, only to discover later through much devastation it has had considerably wider-reaching implications. The whole of Tokyo, if not the country itself or much of the modern world.

One niggle is I don't think the incidental music score is used to its strengths, although it does prove effective to stop the music entirely when something of major incident takes place. What Pulse does prove is that it's not necessary to throw a fortune at a project to make it outstanding. Not as effective as The Eye (a classic in my humble opinion), but very nearly as good as the original Japanese version of The Ring. A very solid piece of work.

Ty Power

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