Pulse (2001 film)

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Kairo Japanese film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Produced by Ken Inoue
Seiji Okuda
Shun Shimizu
Atsuyuki Shimoda
Yasuyoshi Tokuma
Hiroshi Yamamoto
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring Kumiko Aso
Haruhiko Kato
Kurume Arisaka
Music by Takefumi Haketa
Cinematography Jun'ichirô Hayashi
Edited by Jun'ichi Kikuchi
Distributed by Toho Company
Release dates
10 February 2001
Running time
118 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Box office $51,420[1]

Pulse, known in Japan as Kairo (回路?), is a 2001 Japanese horror film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The film is based on his novel of the same name. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.[2] The movie was well-received critically and has a cult following.[3] An American remake, also titled Pulse, debuted in 2006 and spawned two sequels.


The plot centers on ghosts invading the world of the living via the Internet. It features two parallel story lines.

First Story[edit]

The first story involves a young woman named Kudo Michi (Kumiko Aso) who works at a plant sales company. She has recently moved to the city and her main friends are her three colleagues, Sasano Junko, Toshio Yabe and Taguchi. At the start of the film, it appears Taguchi has been missing for some days working on a computer disk. Michi goes to visit his apartment and finds him distracted and aloof; in the middle of their conversation, he casually makes a noose, leaves and hangs himself. Michi and her colleagues inspect the computer disk he left behind and discover it contains an image of Taguchi staring at his own computer monitor, which is displaying an image of Taguchi staring at his computer monitor, creating an endless series of images. In the other monitor on his desk, Michi and her friends discover a ghostly face staring out into Taguchi's room.

Yabe later receives a mysterious phone call of a distorted voice saying "Help me", over and over. Upon checking his phone, Yabe sees the same image found on Taguchi's disk. He goes to Taguchi's apartment and sees a ghostly black stain on the wall where Taguchi was found dead, before finding a crumpled piece of printer paper with the words "The forbidden room" on it. Upon leaving, he notices a door sealed up with red tape and enters, encountering a ghost. Yabe shows up at work late, depressed and uncommunicative, with Junko expressing her exasperation with him to Michi. On her way home, Michi watches on as a woman hurriedly seals a door with red tape. Yabe's strange behavior continues into the next day, ultimately taking to hiding in a storage room. When Michi goes to check on him, he is evasive to her concerns however expresses that he had seen something horrible in "the forbidden room." Michi asks if it is a room sealed by red tape to which Yabe snaps at her, returning to his unresponsive state and retreats to a separate room shortly after. Michi, returning home from work, pauses by the sealed door she had seen prior before continuing on. Soon after she witnesses the woman she saw taping up the door jump to her death from the top of a silo at a cement factory.

Michi's boss is shown sealing himself in a room using red tape, she and Junko become worried when he does not show up to work and attempt to search for him. While calling various customers of the company Michi receives a call like the one Yabe had received, prompting her to check on him as he continues to recluse in the storage room of the nursery. Upon entering, she sees a black stain on the wall like the one left by Taguchi's corpse, at first mistaking it for Yabe himself. Michi leaves to find Junko and panics when she realizes Junko has unsealed and entered a red-taped door. Inside, Junko is sitting on the floor in shock and attempts to escape Michi's comforting. Michi sees a motionless figure standing in the corner of the room, prompting her to try and bring Junko to safety but she is pushed away as the figure begins to approach. Junko is cornered by the ghost and, sceeching in terror, is pulled away by Michi. Junko is seen being cared for by Michi, however she remains in a mostly catatonic state refusing to communicate and becoming deeply unsettled when left alone. When Michi mistakenly dozes off, she awakes to see Junko standing by the window, looking out. After getting up to make coffee, Michi is asked by Junko if she "will die this way," to which Michi assures her she would not prompting her to reply that she would just "keep living all alone." Upon saying this, she steps towards the wall and becomes a black stain. With no one else left, Michi calls her mother for solace who picks up but does not respond to Michi. Becoming worried, Michi goes to check on her mother which leads her to meeting Kawashima.

Second Story[edit]

Ryosuke (Haruhiko Katô) is an economics student who has recently signed up to a new Internet Service Provider. His computer accesses a website by itself, showing him disturbing images of people alone in dark rooms, exhibiting bizarre, depressed behavior. That night, Ryosuke wakes up to find his computer on again; the site now shows a man with his face obscured by shadows, who is then replaced by a man with a plastic bag over his head. Before he pulls it off, Ryosuke unplugs his computer in panic. The next day, Harue Karasawa (Koyuki), a post-graduate computer science student, suggests he either bookmark the page or print the images for her to examine. Ryosuke attempts to follow her advice but finds that his computer will not follow his commands. Instead, a video plays of a man with a plastic bag on his head standing in a room with the words "HELP ME" written all over the walls. A fellow student mentions the appearance of ghostly-looking people around campus and explains his theory that souls have begun to invade the physical world.

Harue begins exhibiting strange, depressive behavior and suggests that ghosts would want to save humans from the loneliness of the afterlife by bestowing immortality on them. Later that night, Ryosuke visits Harue to find her acting even stranger; the two try to escape to a faraway place using the subway. However, the train stops and Harue is seized by a desire to return home and flees. Upon returning to her apartment, she claims that she is "not alone". When Rosuke bursts into her apartment later, she is gone.

As more and more people begin to vanish, evacuations of Tokyo begin. There are ghosts appearing everywhere. Ryosuke meets Michi and they find Harue in an abandoned factory, where she shoots herself. Ryosuke later wanders through a door sealed up with red tape and encounters a ghost who explains that "death was eternal loneliness." Ryosuke loses the will to live, and Michi has to drag him to safety. They drive through a burning Tokyo, encountering numerous apocalyptic scenes : the sky turns black, a US Army C-130 cargo plane crashes out of the sky, and people leap to their deaths from tall buildings. The pair find a ship about to depart Tokyo, crewed by a small group of survivors who tell them that similar events are happening all over the world. As the ship heads for Latin America, Ryosuke and Michi go below deck, where Ryosuke disintegrates into ash.


Critical reception[edit]

The film was well-received critically. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73%, and is certified "fresh".[4]

AllMovie praised the film, writing "The first 30 minutes of Kairo is perhaps some of the most unnerving, frightening sequences to come down the pike in a long time."[5] Anita Gates of The New York Times wrote, "There are very few moments in Kiyoshi Kurosawa's fiercely original, thrillingly creepy horror movie that don't evoke a dreamlike dread of the truly unknown."[4] Slant Magazine gave the film four stars out of four, writing "Kurosawa's movies have a genuinely unnerving effect on the viewer because they deal with the kind of loneliness that exists in an overcrowded world. [...] Pulse is his strongest elucidation of this theme, treating the world wide web as a literal snare forging sinewy connections between strangers where the ultimate destination is chaos."[6] The Guardian called it "an incredibly creepy horror film" that, in the same way as Ring, "finds chills in the most dingy and mundane of locales; skillful deployment of grisly little moments and disturbing, cryptic imagery produce the requisite mood of dread and gloom."[7] Film Threat wrote, "What's worse than a horror film that frightens you sleepless is one that disturbs you to depression."[8] The Washington Post commented, "Pulse is best enjoyed if it's not questioned too closely. It lives visually in a way it cannot live intellectually".[9]

Entertainment Weekly was critical of the film, writing "Watching Pulse [...] you could almost die of anticipation", commenting that "nothing in the two snail-paced hours [...] makes close to a shred of sense".[10] The Seattle Times criticized the film's storyline and length, writing "While it's rattling your nerves, Pulse leaves your brain wanting more",[11] and The Village Voice called the film "at least half an hour too long".[12]

In 2012, Jaime N Christley of Slant Magazine listed the film as one of the greatest films of all time.[13] In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[14] Pulse placed at number 71 on their top 100 list.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=pulse05.htm
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Kairo". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  3. ^ Scott Tobias (19 November 2008). "The New Cult Canon: Pulse". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Pulse (Kairo) (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Jonathan Crow. "Pulse (2001)". AllMovie. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Jeremiah Kipp (20 June 2005). "Pulse". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Andrew Pulver (3 February 2006). "Pulse". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Styna Chyn (29 June 2005). "Kairo". Film Threat. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Stephen Hunter (23 November 2005). "'Pulse': A Quiet Game of Doom". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Owen Glieberman (16 November 2005). "Pulse". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Jeff Shannon (2 December 2005). ""Pulse": The IT gods help us". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  12. ^ J. Hoberman (1 November 2005). "Feardotcom". The Village Voice. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Christley, Jaime N (2012). "Jaime N Christley - BFI - British Film Institute". Sight & Sound. 
  14. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  15. ^ NF. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 

External links[edit]