Week 12 Assignment

Same story. Same plot. Same general concepts, characters, entities, dystopian futures, societal themes/fears, and color schemes. Yet, two incredibly different films. Both Kairo and Pulse showcase some defining factors of each nation’s genre. While watching these two films, I kept asking myself, “What defines horror?” And, “What are the possible approaches?” Horror is an appeal to the viewer’s emotion. It works to invoke something in us. With Pulse, and any other standard American horror, that emotion is fright. This film works to catch us off guard and scare us. For Kurosawa, the emotion is more of a mood. An aura so eerie, we feel helpless. It is an impending doom lingering that refuses to relinquish itself.

The opening scenes of both films immediately establish this concept. Note how in the American version, there is a fast paced, quickly edited action sequence. A man is being tormented by a ghost, which we actually see right off the bat. In Kairo, Kurosawa cares less about forcefully grabbing our attention, than he does setting a more serious mood. A still shot of a computer room intrigues us, while subtly creeping us out. He definitely does not let us see the ghost, as Pulse does. That would ruin this mood.

Another unique effect is Kurosawa’s camerawork. He lingers on his subjects, makes slow pans, and draws out scenes. This adds to the psychology of feeling isolated and helpless. The victims are under a microscope in the same way they are being watched on computer screens. Quick cuts and more camera angles offer no escape to its characters, which Pulse implores instead. This film is faced-paced and always cutting providing one scare after the next, which also attributes to its shorter runtime. (Kairo is not afraid to draw things out and depict utter despair over 2 hours, which is quite long for a horror film.)

Lastly, I am guessing the outcomes of both films are quite different (even though we have not finished Pulse). Kairo demands a more somber conclusion. As he said in his interview, ghosts in Japanese horror are perhaps, less violent, yet unstoppable. The film revolves around how helpless the characters are and how they find ways to cope with the entities, through the very end. Pulse calls for more of a climatic ending. Whether the film stays true to the original or not, we are assured that there is a way to combat the creatures. This violence and physical conflict removes the psychological aspect of Kairo to make room for more of its scares.

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One thought on “Week 12 Assignment

  1. It is very interesting how both films depict the same horror story in its own unique fashion. As mentioned, the American Pulse relies on fast paced, quick cuts to elicit fear in its audience. Compared to the Japanese version, the film is definitely more “in your face” as we see the ghost in the opening scene, leaving barely any mystery for the audience in the rest of the film.

    While there were some brief scary moments in Pulse, the fear does not resonate in the audience when compared to how it resonates in the Japanese version. The Japanese film, Kairo, conveys a stronger and unique version of fear that stays with its audience long after the film’s screening. It is this psychological horror that makes the subtle, slow paced Kairo so scary. This is ultimately seen in its ambiguous ending because it leaves the audience with no clear answer on what will happen next. Instead, the characters of the film must accept the situation and adapt, which makes it all more fearful because society expects a solution to every problem.

    Now that we have seen the ending to the American pulse, we see the influence that its Japanese counterpart has had on the film. Although the ending leaves more optimism than Kairo, it still has the same essence of ambiguity and acceptance of the situation that strikes more fear than the cliché jump cut. Thus, as mentioned, the true horror film must elicit fear from the viewer’s real emotions in order to leave its mark.

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