Week 12 Blog Assignment

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.

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2 thoughts on “Week 12 Blog Assignment

  1. I like your analysis. I think it clearly defines each film in its own subgenre of paranormal horror: Kairo as a more psychological take, and Pulse as a classic, climatic version. It appears as if your predictions were right on about the ending. Although Pulse may have intended to be more true to the original, there was a sense of triumph, portrayed by a single image: the cell phone hitting the ground outside of the car. The implications here are that the ghosts can in fact be conquered by a removal of all electronics. That may be the same case in Kairo, but Kurosawa’s ending is somehow much more bleak. For one, the girl’s one and only companion dies, and also, there is no promise of starting over in refuge base. The boat sailing into a sea of nothingness is much more ominous and hopeless than a car headed to a safe destination. As stated in class, this could be due to the differing cultural views of apocalypse. Where in America, we can only pretend to know what such events feel like, in Japan (who has been atomic bombed twice), has a much more serious mindset about it. Both cases are perhaps subconscious, but nonetheless present.
    Oh, and I totally agree with your argument of Pulse’s overtly “sexualized” portrayal. Apparently when facing the apocalypse, heavy eye shadow and make-up is an absolute must.

  2. Due to its style of horror, the American version of Pulse is definitely more graphic than the Japanese version. It relies heavily on the senses, both visual and auditory, to convey the sense of fear in its audience. When compared to Kairo, Pulse is loud and as stated, “in your face” as in the form of the ghosts. However, Kairo elicits fear in its audience in more subtle fashion. The Japanese film expands much of the horror by making many of its scenes prolonged and ambiguous. At times, the film leaves the audience with mystery in that many of the killings are not actually shown on screen. Compared to Pulse, the audience never actually sees the faces of the ghosts. This goes well with your idea of protagonist and antagonist because the audience can never put a clear face on the villain, let alone know decide on who the hero of the film is.

    You seem to have made a quite interesting observation in regards to the sexualized style of Pulse. Looking back at the film, it is blatantly obvious that the American Pulse, perhaps because of the American culture, pays more attention to the actors physical appearances compared to the Japanese version. This is just one of the many culture differences that each film exhibits and ultimately gives both of them their own style of horror.

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