Pulse (2001 film)

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Kairo Japanese film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKiyoshi Kurosawa
Produced by
  • Shun Shimizu
  • Seiji Okuda
  • Ken Inoue
  • Atsuyuki Shomoda[1]
Written byKiyoshi Kurosawa[1]
Music byTakefumi Haketa[1]
CinematographyJun'ichirô Hayashi[1]
Edited byJunichi Kikuchi[1]
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 3 February 2001 (2001-02-03) (Japan)
Running time
119 minutes[1]
Box office$318,451[3]

Pulse (回路, Kairo) is a 2001 Japanese horror film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.[4] The movie was well-received critically and has a cult following.[5] An American remake, also titled Pulse, debuted in 2006 and spawned two sequels. The script was also adapted into a novel of the same name by Kurosawa himself.[6]


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

First story[edit]

Kudo Michi (Kumiko Asō), an employee at a plant shop, has recently moved to Tokyo. Her co-workers include Sasano Junko, Toshio Yabe and Taguchi, who has been missing for some days working on a computer disk. Michi goes to Taguchi's 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 friends inspect the disk he left behind and discover it contains an image of Taguchi staring at his own computer monitor, creating an endless series of images. In the other monitor on his desk, they discover a ghostly face staring out into Taguchi's room.

Yabe receives a phone call of a distorted voice saying, "Help me." Upon checking his phone, he 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 he hanged himself, as well as a paper with "The forbidden room" written on it. He notices a door sealed with red tape and enters, encountering a ghost. Yabe becomes depressed and tells Michi that he saw something horrible in "the forbidden room."

Michi receives a call like the one Yabe had received. She checks on Yabe and sees a black stain on the wall similar to Taguchi's one. She panics when she realizes Junko has unsealed and entered a red-taped door. Inside, she witnesses Junko being cornered by a ghost and rescues her. Junko becomes catatonic from the encounter. She later steps toward the wall and becomes a black stain. Worried, Michi goes to check on her mother and meets Ryosuke Kawashima.

Second story[edit]

Ryosuke, an economics student, 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 behavior. That night, Ryosuke wakes up to find his computer on again with the disturbing images. He unplugs his computer in a 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 do so, but finds that his computer will not follow his commands. Instead, a video plays of a man with his head in a plastic bag in a room with the words "HELP ME" written all over the walls.

A classmate explains his theory that souls have begun to invade the physical world. Karasawa acts strange and suggests that ghosts would want to trap humans in their own loneliness rather than kill them. Ryosuke tries to escape with her to a faraway place using the subway. However, the train stops and Harue is seized by a desire to return home. Upon returning to her apartment, she witnesses the man with the plastic bag shoot himself on her computer, Harue then presses the "enter" key and claims that she is "not alone". When Ryosuke bursts in, she has vanished.

As more and more people begin to vanish, evacuations of Tokyo begin, and a full-scale invasion of the Kanto region by the ghosts is underway. Ryosuke meets Michi and they find Harue in an abandoned factory, where she shoots herself. When Ryosuke and Michi's car runs out of gas, Ryosuke enters a warehouse to search for fuel. He opens a door sealed with red tape and encounters a ghost who insists that it is "real" and who explains that "death was eternal loneliness". Although he tries to resist the ghost's influence, Ryosuke loses the will to live, and Michi drags him to safety. They drive through a burning Tokyo, encountering apocalyptic scenery as well as a U.S. Army cargo plane that crashes from the sky. After locating a small motorboat, the pair are found and brought aboard a ship departing from 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 ashes while Michi declares that she has found happiness, being alone with her last friend in the world.



Pulse was first released in Japan on February 3, 2001, where it was distributed by Toho.[1]

Distant Horizon purchased worldwide distribution rights to the film from Daiei.[7] The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival.[7]

Home video[edit]

The film was released on DVD by Magnolia Home Entertainment on February 21, 2006.[8] Arrow Video has announced a Blu-ray release of the film for December 2016.[9]

As of October 2019, it is included as part of the subscription service run by the BFI.

Critical reception[edit]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 74% based on 54 reviews, and a rating average of 6.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A sinister spine-tingling techno-thriller whose artistry lies in the power of suggestion rather than a barrage of blood and guts or horror shop special effects."[10]

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."[11] 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."[10] 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."[12] 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."[13] Film Threat wrote, "What's worse than a horror film that frightens you sleepless is one that disturbs you to depression."[14] 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".[15]

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".[16] The Seattle Times criticized the film's storyline and length, writing "While it's rattling your nerves, Pulse leaves your brain wanting more",[17] and The Village Voice called the film "at least half an hour too long".[18]

In 2012, Jaime N Christley of Slant magazine listed the film as one of the greatest of all time.[19] 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.[20] The film was ranked as number 65 on the 2020 version of the same list.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Pulse (booklet). Arrow Video. 2017. p. 2. FCD1396.
  2. ^ Elley, Derek (May 11, 2011). "Pulse". Variety. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  3. ^ "Kairo (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Kairo". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  5. ^ Scott Tobias (19 November 2008). "The New Cult Canon: Pulse". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  6. ^ Mes, Tom (March 9, 2009). "Midnight Eye book review: Mon effroyable histoire du cinéma". Midnight Eye.
  7. ^ a b Harris, Dana (April 25, 2001). "Distant Horizon Nabs Rights to Japan's 'Kairo'". Variety. Vol. 271 no. 40. p. 28. ISSN 0011-5509.
  8. ^ Bill Gibron (20 February 2006). "Pulse (Kairo)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  9. ^ Jonathan Barkan (9 September 2016). "Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 'Kairo' ('Pulse') Getting the Arrow Video Treatment!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Pulse (Kairo) (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  11. ^ Jonathan Crow. "Pulse (2001)". AllMovie. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  12. ^ Jeremiah Kipp (20 June 2005). "Pulse". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  13. ^ Andrew Pulver (3 February 2006). "Pulse". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  14. ^ Styna Chyn (29 June 2005). "Kairo". Film Threat. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  15. ^ Stephen Hunter (23 November 2005). "'Pulse': A Quiet Game of Doom". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  16. ^ Owen Glieberman (16 November 2005). "Pulse". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  17. ^ Jeff Shannon (2 December 2005). ""Pulse": The IT gods help us". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  18. ^ J. Hoberman (1 November 2005). "Feardotcom". The Village Voice. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  19. ^ Christley, Jaime N (2012). "Jaime N Christley - BFI - British Film Institute". Sight & Sound. Archived from the original on 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  20. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  21. ^ NF. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014.

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