Horror films between cultures often share key features and story-lines, but vastly differ in the craftsmanship of the film. This is most seen between Kairo and Pulse. Though the two films share the same story-line, the same exact scenes, same theme, and even the same name, they could not be any more different.
Camerawork is quite distinct between American and Japanese films. In Kairo, camerawork is much more reserved and utilizes slow panning that heightens suspense and extends time of scenes, providing a progressively growing atmospheric feeling of eeriness and psychological fear. Whereas Pulse utilizes a rapid paced style of camerawork, applying intense zoom-ins on characters expressions – cue the over exaggerated horrified face – and equally as fast jump cuts, a staple of American horror, in order to evoke fear from the imagery on screen, having a very direct method to scare viewers.
Speaking of imagery, Pulse places grotesque and graphic props and images on screen to further evoke a disgusted feel and fear from the audience. American imagery appears to be much more explicit and straightforward, from the intimidating images of the “ghosts” that appear suddenly in order to get some sheer terror from unsuspecting viewers. However, Kairo had a much more natural scene and imagery that derives fear from the slowly creeping cinematography.
Sound significantly differs between the two. Kairo had a much more atmospheric and strategic use of a low pitched sound and extra-diagetic music that sets the eerie tone and nature of the film. Pulse has a much more loud in your face music that explicitly cues in with the actions onscreen and wants to make the audience feel suspenseful and tense.
In general, Kairo delivers a lingering atmospheric feel that progresses alongside the story and evokes similar feelings to the audience; several times I found myself synchronizing my breathing to the breathing or beat of characters or sound onscreen. Pulse has a very direct style of fear from the pace of camerawork and extra-diagetic music in order to place those feelings of terror and suspense.