Kairo and Pulse are two movies that illustrate the broad scope of the horror genre. The difference between the two not only represents the obvious cultural differences between Japanese and American film, but also widen the reach of the genre in general.
One key difference between the American and Japanese versions is that the American film relies much more heavily on physical repulsiveness, in contrast to the more psychological terror displayed by the Japanese version. Whereas Kairo lets the viewer interpret every which way the onscreen action is meant to spook him or her, Pulse relies on jump cuts, blood, gore, and cheap scares to blatantly tell the viewer what he or she is supposed to be scared of.
Another difference between the films is that the American version, due to its massive under-appreciation of its audience’s perceptiveness, tries to spell out the story as one consisting of clear heroes and villains. The story fits an American mold in that the protagonists set out to defeat the antagonizing force. In effect, this takes away much of what is unique about the Japanese version: in Kairo, the collective group of sufferers lives in a mood of unalterable helplessness. The film does not end happily, and no one escapes the clutches of the heavy mood. Although we have yet to finish Pulse, I suspect that the ending to this Americanized version will be lighter, likely portraying the protagonists as winners over the forces that antagonize them. After all, very few contemporary American narratives lack clear winners and losers.
One cannot analyze the Americanization of this paranormal horror story without noticing the sexualized portrayal of women in Pulse that is nowhere present in Kairo. The American emphasis on and conception of beauty is certainly portrayed, and flaunted, in the actors and actresses. There are very few shots of Isabelle that do not emphasize the curves on her body.
Other differences between the films include the mass of close ups, shaky camera/moving frame, and quick-paced editing in the American version that is not present in the slower-paced, subtle original. Depending on what one thinks constitute a good style of movie (and what one thinks a horror movie is meant to do: blatantly scare or subtly creep), one can evaluate whether the louder, in-your-face Pulse is better or worse than the quieter, psychological Kairo.