"Something strange is going on," murmurs a young woman towards the beginning of the Tokyo-set Pulse in an observation of glaring understatement. Writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa attempts to weave together two storylines: a florist Mimi (Kumiko Aso) witnesses a colleague's suicide, and a student Ryosuke (Haruhiko Katô) stumbles onto a software programme haunted by phantoms. Despite the dread-laden atmosphere however, this supernatural tale is poorly served by a shapeless and repetitive screenplay.
Whereas in Hideo Nakata's The Ring it was a videotape which unleashed evil forces, in Pulse it's the internet which allows dark spirits to re-enter the world of the living. Separately both Mimi and Ryosuke witness sinister images on computer screens, such as a man sitting on a chair with a plastic bag over his head and the word help scrawled over the walls. Suicides multiply, Tokyo seems drained of activity, and ghostly figures begin to appear in everyday environments - libraries, supermarkets, amusement arcades - leaving sooty traces in their wake.
"A HANDFUL OF ARRESTING MOMENTS"
Favouring long takes, medium shots and shadowy lighting, Kurosawa uses the ghost story genre to explore the emotionally disconnected nature of modern urban life: the fear of one of the most technologically adept characters Karue (Koyuki) is that death will bring eternal loneliness. Yet whilst there are a handful of arresting moments, including a digitally created plane crash and a ride on an eerily deserted train, Pulse mostly proceeds at a funereal pace and the pallid characters fail to engage one's emotions.