Review © Mandi Apple, 2002.

This is a review of the original Japanese version of Kairo / Pulse. For a review of the 2005 USA remake, click here.

Written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001, 119 min. starring Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kenji Mizuhashi, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Show Aikawa, Jun Fubuki, Shinji Takeda and Yakusho Koji.

One of 2001's most eagerly anticipated films among the online Japanese Horror community was Kaïro (also known as Pulse, although a more accurate translation is Circuit), directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa who first made his name with Cure (aka Kyua), a brilliant psychological thriller, and directed the less well-known but critically well-received Kourei (aka Séance), and Charisma (aka Karisuma), a kind of partial sequel/follow-up to Cure.

Kaïro is one of the most popular movies among Japanese New Wave cinema aficionados; powerful, profound philosophy lurks under the depths of a modern, almost incomprehensible horror tale of the Internet. Popular interest was initially sparked by the film's mysterious "Ghost-site" which mirrored one of the main themes of the movie, but which has now sadly disappeared.

This is an incredible film which I know has given some of my friends nightmares after watching it. If you enjoyed the gore-free, fear-laden, chilling atmosphere of Ring, you'll love Kaïro.

Synopsis

"Would you like to meet a ghost?"

Kaïro is based around two parallel stories: the strange events taking place among the employees of a Tokyo plant sales company, and similar happenings in the life of a young economics student, Kawashima Ryosuke (played by Haruhiko Katô).

The film opens with a young woman, Kudo Michi (Kumiko Aso, who also starred in Ring 0), who is trying to track down one of the employees at the small plant sales company she also works in, Taguchi (Kenji Mizuhashi), who has gone missing for a few days. Their boss is waiting for Taguchi to provide him with a work file for the company's computer. Michi goes to Taguchi's apartment and finds him there, seemingly normal. She picks up the work file from his computer desk; however, when she goes into the next room to thank him for the disk, she finds him dead against the wall, having hanged himself while she was looking for the work disk.

The other employees of the company, Sasano Junko (Kurume Arisaka) and Toshio Yabe (Masatoshi Matsuo), are obviously also very shaken up by this unexpected suicide, and suspect that something strange is happening. When Yabe runs the so-called work disk in the company's computer, the disk connects him to a weird website, which shows a picture of Taguchi's computer desk, with the figure of Taguchi next to the desk, hiding in the shadows. Even more strangely, on Taguchi's computer is a picture of the whole scene, receding into infinity. The two women are frightened by this, and so Yabe decides to investigate.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Kawashima is trying to connect to the Internet for the first time. A self-avowed computer-hater and novice, he installs the dial-up software with difficulty. However, he is baffled when the computer gives him all kinds of error messages, and then proceeds to dial him up and connect him to the same odd website. This time, though, the site shows him a different room, with more shadowy, indistinct figures making repetitive motions in it. A message appears on the screen: "Would you like to meet a ghost?" He is scared and confused by this turn of events, and turns off the computer in a hurry.

However, in the middle of the night, while he is asleep, the computer turns itself back on and dials up the Net, going straight to the odd website all by itself. The modem sound wakes him up, and he panics and throws the computer off the desk.

The next day, Kawashima decides to go the next day to the Computer Science faculty of his university to ask about the strange website. There, he meets a young IT student, Karasawa Harue (played by Koyuki), who gives him instructions to help him track down the source of the website, fearing it could be a hacker using his PC to dial up the site. As they work together to try and find out about the weird site, Harue and Kawashima are drawn to each other.

Unknown to Kawashima, Harue and the plant sales employees, people all over Tokyo are finding the ghost-site, and becoming addicted to it for unknown reasons.

In the meantime, Yabe goes to Taguchi's apartment to try and find out what has happened to him, and what the mysterious floppy disk is all about. While he's there, he is drawn into the room where Taguchi committed suicide, and thinks he sees him there, standing in the shadows. But on closer investigation, Yabe finds that the figure is in reality a black, ashen silhouette, left on the wall where Taguchi hanged himself, in the exact same shape as Taguchi when he died.

At the bottom of Taguchi's apartment block, Yabe sees a mysterious room, the door taped up with red construction tape. He investigates the room, and what happens inside destroys him…

On her way home from work, at the same time as Yabe is in Taguchi's apartment block, Michi passes by the house of a middle-aged woman who lives opposite an abandoned factory, and watches her hurriedly taping up her front door with a roll of red construction tape. The next day, when she is returning home again from her job, the same woman jumps from the top of the factory building and kills herself in front of her…

On the other side of the city, Harue introduces Kawashima to a computer graduate student, Yoshizaki (Shinji Takeda) who seems to know what is happening with the weird website, and tells Kawashima his own hypothesis about ghosts, computers and humanity in general…

… but why have the residents of Tokyo suddenly begun to tape up their doors and windows with red tape? And why have so many people disappeared or committed suicide? Michi, Junko, Yabe, Harue and Kawashima are all swept into the mysterious world of the Circuit from which there is no escape for anyone… or is there?

In this film, Kurosawa creates a dark, harrowing atmosphere based on a painful philosophy: that all humans live alone, and remain alone after death. There are no happy endings, no bright future, and that even the closest community of people can never truly connect… not on the Internet, not among friends, and not even within families. Each person is an individual, and deep within each individual is a bottomless pit of loneliness that never ends.

Kaïro is a true masterpiece: cinematography that is so dark, surreal and murky it makes your eyes hurt; potent and resonant imagery that weighs heavy on the mind long after seeing it; no shocks, but instead deep, dead chills that make the viewer have to consider the central philosophy of the film and fear for the future. An awesome, totally essential film.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 9/10
Sex: 0/10
Violence: 0/10
Bafflement Rating: needs watching more than 4 times
Scare Factor: 11/10
Haunted Computers: 11/10
***ESSENTIAL!!!***

Kaïro Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002


You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Larry Burns, 2003

Snowblood Apple Filmographies:
Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Haruhiko Katô
Kumiko Aso
Koyuki
Kenji Mizuhashi
Shinji Takeda
Masatoshi Matsuo
Yakusho Koji
Jun Fubuki

Links

There aren't a huge amount of sites or pages dedicated to Kairo - the fantastic official site is now gone and there's just a few reviews etc dotted around.
http://www.long-bridge.co.jp/katoharuhiko/ - the official website dedicated to Haruhiko Kato - beautiful design and lots of great features (in Japanese)
http://perso.club-internet.fr/pserve/Kairo.html - decent French review with pictures
http://www.serialmaster.com/cinema/kairo/ - another review in French, following the film winning the critic's prize at Cannes in 2001
http://www.toho.co.jp/movienews/0102/05kairo_sn.html - in Japanese. Coverage of the Japanese premiere.
http://www.monstersatplay.com/kairo.shtml - review in English

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