Pulse

Besides the clear difference that the Japanese Pulse is a much better movie than the American one, there are other differences that are found when one delves into different aspects of both films. The Japanese version, first of all, has a much slower pace, and uses this as a means of spreading horror rather than the American version which uses jumps and ghosts jumping out of the shadows to scare the audience. The Japanese version dwells on this idea that technology is dragging everyone towards depression, so the horror of the film is a depressing horror; people are not getting killed by a monster, but rather are losing their will to live. Then the cinematography and music play on this theme. The shots are drawn out and long, and the music is very subtle. This creates a somber, and almost depressing tone. Kiyoshi Kurosawa creates this duality between theme and cinematography which comes together quite nicely.

The American version does no such thing. There is no harmony between any different aspects of the film with the theme of technological takeover, and this makes the audience confused and annoyed with the films mediocrity. In fact, the film does such a poor job of getting its point across, that the writers had to insert this one character at the end of the film “Zeigler” to basically ruin the entire mystery of the film. On top of that, the film just relies on gruesome and unnecessary death scenes, and does not tie all of its points in to make a statement like the Japanese version does.

On top of that, Kurosawa’s Pulse does not have any gruesome death scenes; its death scenes are sad and bizarre, not agreeing at all with the typical norms of horror. The Japanese Pulse relies on so much more than scaring the audience to be a good film, while the American version only has a few scary scenes to offer its viewers. 

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Week 12 Blog Post

                Both Kairo and Pulse have similar storylines yet they are two different types of horror films that are typical of each culture. In Kairo the scare element is more a psychological and creepy kind of horror that leaves you wondering what will happen next. In Pulse, the aspect of fear is rooted in the element of surprise and unexpected action that is supposed to immediately scare the audience.

                The acting in Kairo and Pulse were very different in the way that the characters reacted in each situation. In Kairo, when a character saw a ghost, they weren’t immediately scared and didn’t run away as we would expect them to. Rather, they seemed more curious about the ghosts than frightened of them. This is shown in the scene where one of the characters reaches out to grab the ghost and realizing that he can still physically touch him. In Pulse, the reaction to seeing ghosts is typical of what we would expect: screaming in panic and running away from it all. The subtleness of Kairo makes the aura of mystery more strange and eerie, whereas in Pulse there are more fast-paced, scary action scenes.

                Both films were similar in that the lighting was low-key which played up the contrast and accentuates the shadows. In both films, the weather was always cloudy or gloomy, never fully sunny. This foreshadows the bad events that are going to occur and makes the mood more eerie. Although these two films are similar in the storyline, the way the plot is set is very different. The plot of Kairo is slower paced and the fear is purely psychological which makes the mood more somber and gives us a feeling of helplessness. In Pulse, the plot is very climactic and fast-paced with lots of action scenes and surprise scares.

Japanese vs American Pulse

The film Pulse and its American remake had an array of interesting similarities and differences. Some pretty obvious ones were the acting, lighting, and chain of events. In the Japanese version, all the actors’ movements and reactions to even the most frightening things were very subtle and quiet whereas in the American version, the characters were much more expressive and dramatic. The lighting was extremely different: in the original, the lighting was pretty natural, except in the scenes with ghost or haunted rooms where it was typically dark. Contrastingly, in the remake, it was dark almost the entire movie except some scenes at the beginning before all of the bad things started happening. Even though there were terrible events taking place in the Japanese Pulse, it wasn’t always dark and hard to see the characters faces like it was in the American version. Something else very different was the way that the situations and the storyline are presented to the viewers. The American version provided a lot more context and background details whereas the Japanese version was very vague and somewhat open to interpretation. This may have something to do with both countries’ contrasting histories and current events around the time period of the films’ release.

Surprisingly, despite all of these major differences, there is almost exactly the same plot. There were even a few of the exact same tiny details and scenes in both films that made it very obvious that it was the same film but remade differently. For instance, the scene with the TV pausing all of the sudden was the same in both films. There were also a lot of the same settings (the library, the first character to die’s rooms) and specific details that were noticeable right away. Watching the two films back to back really made the cultural influences on the plot and film style stand out.

Week 12 Blog Assignment

The differences and similarities between Kairo and Pulse really highlight how broad a genre can be. It also shows how the same story can be represented in two different ways and each can give a different and distinct feel from the other.

The most notable difference between Kairo and Pulse is something that Kurosawa himself explained in the interview we were asked to read for this week. In it, he says that a major difference between “J-Horror” and American horror is that the ghosts do not attack people; they loom, they creep and they create a psychological terror much more lasting than that of American horror ghosts, but they do not chase and they do not physically harm people. This is so obvious when watching Kairo and Pulse back to back. In Kairo, the ghosts integrate themselves slowly into the lives of the characters and show no signs of relinquishing their hold, but they do not pursue their victims in the same way. In contrast, the opening scene of Pulse shows a ghost really messing with the guy on screen: flickering the lights, throwing books on the floor and ultimately, literally sucking the life out of him. The apparitions in Kairo are more creepy and lingering, creating a lasting psychological effect whereas the ghosts in Pulse are very in your face and very violent, leaving little time for tensions to build and expectations are met before we can even really formulate them.

Something else I noticed was that in Kairo, there is no mention of and no attempt to rid the world of these ghosts. Once again, Kurosawa explains this by saying that because they do not attack, the characters cannot defend themselves: they can only learn to coexist with them. In Pulse, Josh attempts to create a virus that can shut the ghost’s program down and Dexter tries to use it. Though the virus hasn’t worked from what we’ve seen so far, I have a feeling that Dexter and Mattie will find a way to defeat the ghosts, because this is what I’ve come to expect for the ending to an American horror film.

Week 12 – “Horror”

At first I was a bit disappointed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse because the story is convoluted, and as far as horror movies go, I would give Pulse a 1/10 on the terrifying scale (I struggle to see how this movie falls under the genre of Horror).

However, I’m so glad we talked about the movie afterwards because I gained much respect for it; I love that the computer program is a symbol of isolation that represents all humans and ghosts as isolated beings who desperately crave connections to one another. I realized how breathtakingly beautiful the film’s concept and story are and how deep and relevant the message is to today’s society. Although the film was not scary in the slightest, I still appreciate it for its message and GORGEOUS cinematography.

So about that genre–I struggle to see how Kurosawa’s Pulse fits under the genre of Horror, but if I had to guess why.. I might say something along the lines of .. the ghosts in the film create a creepy mood and people scream in the movie. Other than those two things, I would quickly categorize this film as fantasy and mystery.

Horror films typically revolve around eliciting negative reactions from the viewer (scaring or disturbing the viewer). Kurosawa’s film fails to elicit negative reactions from the viewer (unless that reaction is boredom/drowsiness). They tend to include the supernatural (okay, so this film DOES include ghosts, but the ghosts do not scare the viewer). Horror films typically build suspense to effect surprise/anxiety/terror in the viewer. This film effects none of those things. Kurosawa had MANY opportunities to build suspense, but he decided not to for whatever reason (with a couple (maybe one or two) notable exceptions.. such as near the end when Harue is being filmed, and she walks into the dark room and hugs the ghost). Mostly, the film shows the action very slowly and calmly and doesn’t ever really allow the viewer to achieve a scare stronger than the 1/10 I mentioned earlier. I found Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to be a vastly more terrifying movie than Kurosawa’s Pulse, and it isn’t even classified as a Horror movie. It is classified as fantasy. Which is what I would classify this movie as.

I did enjoy the movie after it was explained. I’m just saying I don’t see how it falls under the Horror category.

The American Pulse is very clearly a horror film in that its only goal is to scare the viewer or make the viewer jump. In fact, it cares more about scaring the viewer than it does telling a good story or giving depth to its characters (which is pretty typical of American horror films).

Horror Across Cultures

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.

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.

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.

The Genre Horror

I have not watched much horror because I tend to avoid those and watch romantic comedies instead. Therefore, I am not well versed in the horror genre. What I can tell, the characters in the japanese Pulse or Kairo and the American Pulse are involved in a regular life that is interrupted by a terrible event that is happening around them. Their use of music, lighting, and editing is all different for two different effects.

In the Japanese film, the horror was very subtle. You leave the movie feeling terribly creeped out, although you never have the feeling of having jumped in your seat. The music was mostly quiet, and silence was used very strategically for an even creepier effect. The lighting was bright and natural when the characters were outside, which conveyed a sense of normal life. While the characters began to see things occurring, the lighting would change to dark and it was flexible based on the moods. The framing and editing was not so quick, with most of the shots being quite wide so you can see the dark shadow creepily behind the character. The acting was also subtle for the more mentally testing film.

In the American film, the music was very loud and cued emotions during the events that were occurring. The horror was in your face, and it was meant to make you jump in your seat. The lighting was super dark and had very high contrast the whole movie, event during the day. The editing was very close, so it made the movie viewer much more involved in the story. The acting was much more emotional, and the themes were drawn out to be more exaggerated compared to the Japanese film.

Overall, the horror in these two films are very different. The genre includes the establishing characters and an event changes their lives. In Kairo, nothing could be done but to run away from the event. In Pulse, they could upload the virus that would shut down the system and save the world. Watching these two movies confused me when pinpointing horror as a first time watcher for sure.

Pulse: Week 12 Blog Post

In regards to the genre, both Japanese and American versions of Pulse portray horror in a fashion that is synonymous with each of their cultures. In the American Pulse, the film is more straightforward as it basically spoon-feeds the audience the context of the film and leaves little room for them to ponder the message of the movie. Consequently, due to the American version’s lack of mystery, the film must rely on graphic images, tense music and jump cuts to evoke fear in the audience. The film also relied on special effects and close up shots to establish the state of fear needed. Essentially, the audience is left feeling that the film tried too hard to scare them.

On the other hand, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Japanese Pulse leaves much more mystery throughout the film compared to its American counterpart. Even towards the end of the movie, the audience is left with much more to ponder, as many questions must still be answered. It is in leaving the audience with such ambiguity that Kurosawa is able to evoke the psychological fear that is common in Japanese horror films. By comparing the loneliness of death with that of a life filled with technology, Kurosawa leaves his audience with a fear of isolation that they can better relate to than a ghost popping out at them while they do their laundry.

Kurosawa’s film is able to better convey this fear of isolation by making the scenes with the highest tension silent and the use of the long shot to show the distance between many of the characters. It makes the audience feel that although people live in the same world, technology isolates them and it is the reason why they never truly connect. Ultimately, Kurosawa proves that true horror does not need graphic, “up in your face” intensity to strike real fear in the audience.