Cinema Signal:

. "Pulse"

This could be seen as a j-horror answer to M. Night Shyamalan's "Sixth Sense" in its dealing with ghosts who mingle among the living. But this more paranormal treatment, with computer and internet elements takes its own path to suggesting spooky horrors.

Several young students work at a nursery. One of them who has been working on a programming project has failed to show up for work for a week and has not answered his phone. Finally, Michi becomes alarmed and goes to his apartment. She calls his name, and receives no response. The computer is there, with the strange image of the room on the monitor. We see a figure beyond a plastic screen, and it turns out to be her friend, who seems to be coming out of a trance. He offers little explanation for his lack of communication but invites her to take the disc with their project on it.

Later she finds him hanging from a noose, then as a dark stain on the wall, then as himself as though he's returned. But is this reality or her mind playing tricks?

From another group of computer novices, Kawashima installs an internet program on his computer and dials into a series of web cams trained on people staring blankly. The image dissolves into a text message asking, "Would you like to meet a ghost?" He frantically shuts down the computer, only to have it turn itself on later while he's asleep.

While there are no direct, on-screen attacks, more and more of the people involved turn into ghosts only to haunt the still living. One person suggests that the place where dead spirits normally go is overcrowded, which is why they're forced to roam among the living.

This, it would seem, is director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's working hypothesis for his understated romp with horror. Later, his characters question whether these ghosts are turning people into more ghosts. The reasoning is that they are not responsible for the plague of death causing the epidemic. More ghosts mean more overcrowding, so it would be in theinterests of those already ghosts to preserve life among the living.

Whatever message he's trying to convey, he does it with minimalist production and evasive suggestion instead of narrative clarity. But, the shock tricks, the atmosphere of dread, the highly suggestive music, do coalesce into the aura desired. Despite it overextension into boredom, you are brought into Kurosawa's sphere of alienation and disturbance which appears also to have something to say about where computer nerds are headed. Is this horror as an obscure premonition of digital destiny?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Kumiko Aso as Michi Kudo
A pretty computer nerd who sees what she doesn't want to see. Agonies of non-combat
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