Pulse (the original Japanese one)

I rented this after seeing the trailer for the American version, which I’m guessing is awful. But based on the trailer (and in particular one shot I wished I hadn’t seen because I kept waiting for it while I was watching the original), I decided to give it a try by watching the original instead.

Firstly, I should say that I failed to watch the movie as it should be seen (i.e. in one sitting, preferably in a dark room). It kept freaking me out, so I’d pause and go do something else for a little bit. During a couple of scenes, I sort of cheated by not looking, and then going back and rewatching to see if I missed anything. It’s been a while since I’ve been this creeped out.

But other than being incredibly creepy, I really liked what Kurosawa (no, not that Kurosawa) accomplished here. It’s a great existential story about alienation, hopelessness, technology, fear of death. I like that much of it was unexplained, making everything even more unsettling by the time the credits roll*. And there are some really incredible scenes that rely on craft rather than fancy effects. The cinematography, production design, sound design, and lighting are all distinct and a large part of what makes it work so well. I only wish it had better actors instead of just leaning on attractive young people.

Also, I know this is going to make me a total racist, but it’s really confusing when I can’t distinguish Japanese actors from each other. There were, I think, two distinct plot threads in Pulse, and I wasn’t always clear which chick was from which plot thread, and even then who was who. I did, however, successfully recognize the father from Babel, so yay for me not being a total racist dickhead Westerner!

So, my familiarity with J-horror is actually pretty lacking. I’ve seen, umm, the American version of Ringu and now this. Any suggestions for where to go next? And are all of them as metaphysically thoughtful as Pulse, or is it just a bunch of creepy kids running around and suddenly lunging at the camera?


  • What the fuck is that song they play during the credits? Umm, hello, is fruity J-pop really the way you want to close your movie, Kurosawa?

Some good recommendations here:

Unfortunately it seems that my dissertation has been lost to computer upgrades but another good ‘horror’ film in the mold of ‘I spit on your grave’ is ‘Freeze Me’, about a woman’s revenge on her rapists. Not necessarily true horror though, or a pleasant story.

Spelling, title and url edit.

Hm. I missed out on Pulse because the thought of seeing it soured after watching the bloody stupid trailer for the bloody stupid remake. I’ll have to check it out.

Personally, I find that a fair amount of the J-horror stuff to follow in the footsteps of Ringu is all atmosphere and little substance. I’m thinking particularly of The Grudge here, which struck me as an unrelenting sequence of horror non sequiturs with little pay-off beyond the aesthetic it created. Maybe Ringu is also guilty of this too, but it’s the first one I saw, and so its tricks were still novel to me. There’s only so many times you can watch movies comprised of a string of nonsensical but unsettling images before you start to see it as a flow chart between capitalised terms and the tension evaporates: Scary Child --> Desolation of Modern Life --> Matted Hair Over Eyes --> Creepy Sounds --> Sudden Inexplicable Visions --> etc.

Dark Water is better in this department, in as much as it has a coherent premise at all, and is very effective at creating a grim and pervading sense of unease, compounded by the main-character’s crippling emotional problems. But then, in my opinion, it shoots its load and hurries to an underwhelming conclusion that doesn’t really deliver on the film’s earlier promise. It ends up being a bit of a damp squib.

Audition is certainly excellent, but I’m not sure it’s really a horror film, although it certainly is horrible.

It’s OK: you whiteys all look the same to us, too. It’s especially difficult when I’m watching, say, a war movie, where everyone’s wearing the same uniform.

It isn’t Japanese and it isn’t all that deep, but I liked The Eye. The premise is that a blind woman gets a cornea transplant to restore her vision and starts seeing weird shit; but the gimmick is that since she was blind, she doesn’t understand initially what it is she’s seeing or even that it’s unnatural in the first place. As post-Sixth Sense “I see dead people” knockoffs go, I thought it was pretty decent; it’s more creepy than scary or gross.

Shibuya Kaidan 1+2. Watch them back to back, as the second movie picks
up seconds after the first one. More of the same for people who’ve seen Ringu,
but damn it, dead Japanese baby hauntings are scary :)

Somewhat artsy and weird: 4 Inyong shiktak (“Uninvited”).

“A tale of two sisters” is a weird Korean ghost story of sorts.

Phone is also pretty cool - a certain mobile number brings misfortune.

But the best of the Korean lot I’ve seen in recent years is probably The Face.
Watch these last three with as little knowledge of the contents as possible.

I’ll second the A Tale of Two Sisters recommendation–there’s a scene in that one that freaked me out more than any scene has in years.

I thought “A Tale of Two Sisters” was from Vivid. Silly me.

Oh yeah - and I rented Audition finally. WTF? Yeah, it was pretty damn creepy and all, but the end just didn’t make so much sense to me. I’m usually pretty open with foreign films, but it seemed that they decided suddenly the film was over-long and just shut it off in the middle of confusing you about what was and was not flashback and what I assume are pain inspired delusions of the main character.

“Diki diki diki diki…” wasn’t as bad as Tom made it out to be. Really, it was like re-living my previous 2 relationships.

The Eye was fantastic; it had around three scenes where you’re aware of things the character is not, and that tension really made it fun to watch. There’s a terrible Bollywood version called Naina – STAY AWAY.

Another recommendation I have is for Phone. The premise is pretty dumb, and the actual movie is a bit disjointed, but the actual visuals … well, there are four colors in the movie (essentially) – blue, orange, black, and white, and it’s kind of fun to watch because of that. It’s really well done. Color seems to play a big role in a lot of Eastern films.

Chakushin Ari (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366292/) was hugely popular here for while, and spawned plenty of sequels in a short space of time. I haven’t seen it though so I can’t vouch for quality.

“Pulse” is a great movie. Here’s a small list of some others I have enjoyed. Some of these are Japanese, others are korean. They are all great. This is only a small list though, really, Korea, China and Japan have a whole bunch of very good horror flicks.

  1. A tale of two sisters: another vote for this creepy, beautifully filmed ghost story. Amazing movie.

  2. Shutter: man, this movie made me get up, turn on the lights, light a cigar, swallow a glass of whisky and sit in the kitchen, alone, afraid to go back to the room. Really really scary couple of scenes, and a clasic ending.

  3. Dark Water: the original, japanese version. Not as good as the others but a fine watch.

  4. Battle Royale: not “horror” per se but AWESOME movie. Watch it, love it, buy it. Recommend it.

  5. Kansen [Infection]: the sounds alone in this movie will have you scared.

Edit> you DID watch RINGU, right? or just “the ring”. Both RINGU and JU-ON are pretty solid horror flicks

I actually preferred the American remake of The Ring. They tightened up the story considerably and got rid of a couple of stupid elements from the original. The Japanese version of Ju-On was much better than the American one, though.

The american version has a neat post-apocalypse vibe for a short period of time.

But yes, it is indeed pretty awful.

Also, there’s the hispanic guy from Hackers playing a Hacker, sort of. Same hairstyle even. That’s some good casting there.

I have to put in another recommendation for Shutter. Wow, what a great creepy film. You can tell that the writer had this movie well-planned from the beginning. I actually enjoyed it, as a whole, more than Pulse, which I felt was a bit unbalanced in its ability to creep you out. Man, I really need to catch up on my Asian horror. These two movies are better than just about anything I’ve seen in western cinema in the past 2 or 3 years.

Gosh, yes, Shutter! I had a momentary block and couldn’t remember the title
of the One Must-See Thai Horror Movie. The sad thing is that you’ll judge any
other horror from Thailand by this :/

It’s also great by any standard. The incredible thing is that it looks so professional,
yet it’s the makers’ first project.

With the exception of the Japanese version of Pulse, I’ve found most Asian horror flicks to be incredibly bad. The acting is substandard, cinematography is average at best, and the special effects are usually years behind anything seen in America.

Basically, horror flicks out of Asia are just as shitty as most American horror movies. I think the people raving about Asian cinema tend to be enraptured by the fact that it is foreign, but fool themselves into believing the overseas perspective on horror is somehow deeper or more introspective than domestic fare.

Said another way, if many of these films were reproduced EXACTLY by an American company and cast, they would be panned as dog food. Somehow being foreign lends them legitamacy.

I don’t think that’s it, Dante. I have a feeling that there are plenty of bad asian horror flicks, but because we’ve seen a couple good ones (i.e. we’re not subjected to all of them in our media 24/7 like western cinema) I think it probably skews things a little. I mean, most people aren’t just going to go and look for every foreign horror film they can, they’re going to hear recommendations in threads like these and hunt down the good ones.

And really, Pulse is from 2001, and Shutter is from 2004. Not really that recent. The problem for me is that I’m obviously about a decade behind in watching all of them.

Agreed, in my case, we have nothing but Hollywood movies at the theaters, so we watch a LOT of crap amongst the few good ones. Asian horror, on the other hand, I have to LOOK FOR, and I am contanstly asking about the “good ones” and those are the ones I see and like.

Btw, if you feel like watching some asian horror with your girlfriend, the Whispering Corridors Trilogy is a decent watch. Not hardcore horror, more like ghost stories with a hint of a lesbian subtext. Interesting nonetheles.

A while ago, I won an eBay auction for bootlegs of Pulse, Wild Zero, the first two Ring movies, and Splatter.

My experience with Pulse, mostly, was that it seemed like there wasn’t much movie there to speak of. Like Ju-On, you watched creepy stuff happen for ninety minutes and then the credits rolled. Eerie, yeah, but sort of weirdly hollow.

I would recommend Wild Zero to anyone who likes balls crazy Japanese movies, but really… Splatter is the movie I’m here to talk about.

It may be the single most successful gross-out flick I’ve ever seen, and thinking about it gives me the shakes. It’s about a guy who invents a specialized anesthetic that swaps the pain/pleasure reaction, and three women participating in a clinical trial who’re inadvertently dosed with it.

One of them happens to be a gourmet.


Consider yourselves warned.

Ooh, a third one to hunt down :)

My fave import shop just moved, and I haven’t found the new address.
Time for a walk!

Re-Cycle, newest outing from the Pang Brothers (The Eye et al) is a VERY bland film and not much horror, much rather being fantasy-videogame-adventure-mashup. But it’s incredibly imaginative and impressive visually, and certainly an entertaining ride. So if you allow yourself some “style over substance” every once in a while, it is a good watch.

Also check out “Seance” by Kurosawa and “Vital” by Shinya Tsukamoto.
I’m sure I have poster my opinion on Pulse elsewhere already, I think it’s the best J-Horror there is. Certainly an underrated gem.