So, this is another entry for Final Girl’s Shocktober 2012. It’s not actually due until the 11th but I’m early. Maybe I’ll get a gold star. The movie is the Japanese flick from 2001, Kairo a.k.a. Pulse in English.
You know how I get cranky when people say stuff like, “You like horror movies? So you like watching people getting killed?” As if I judge them for loving 27 Dresses (I totally do.) One of the many reasons that I love horror is that it can act like a mirror and reflect our fears. Kairo reflects our fears of being alone despite being technologically connected to each other.
The movie follows parallel narratives (How’s THAT for sophistimicated?). First, there’s Michi (Kumiko Asô), who’s trying to deal with the gradual disappearance of her coworkers at the greenhouse where she works.
What seems to link them is her one coworker, Taguchi (Kenzi Mizuhashi), and the work he did on a disk in his creeptacular computer room.
Michi goes to find Taguchi and retrieve the disk and Taguchi casually hangs himself in the middle of their conversation. Yabe (Masatoshi Matsuo) tries to investigate Taguchi’s apartment but just finds a creepy room with a door marked with red duct tape. Yabe becomes withdrawn and then just disappears, leaving nothing but a black mark on the wall. This pattern follows with Michi’s other friends and these creepy outlined doors are popping up around Tokyo.
Meanwhile, Kawashima (Haruhiko Katô) is a college student deciding to try out the internet for the first time.
He’s thoroughly creeped out when his ISP starts running automatically and takes him to a website that asks if he wants to see a ghost. He goes to Harue (Koyuki), a computer-science student for help.
Another student tells Kawashima his theory, that wherever ghosts go is at capacity so now they’re using technology to enter the living world. Where have we heard this one before?
It just so happens that people who encounter these Forbidden Rooms are drained of their will to live and become ghosts themselves. So what happens to a society when everyone just quits?
I’m not going to lie, this movie scared the bejesus out of me. I don’t know why, it just did. It’s probably watching people appear and disappear on security feeds.
Or what you see in the Forbidden Rooms.
I really liked this movie. I only have two complaints. One is that the running time felt a bit long, at two hours. My second complaint is that some of the dialogue between Kawashima and Harue about loneliness felt very heavy-handed. We understand that the movie is about isolation and the fear of being alone. I think it would improve the pacing of the movie and solve the running time issue, if about ten to fifteen minutes of that were cut.
Other than that, the movie was awesome to watch. I liked the occasional yellow-tinge that made everything look grimy. The music was also quite spare, mostly pianos that were sometimes accentuated with a chorus. I didn’t expect the choral music but it was a really nice touch. I can’t emphasize enough how much the ghosts freaked me out. Maybe it was how you never get to see them quite fully, it’s always out of the corner of your eye or a quick glimpse on a monitor. Also, it’s the herky-jerky way they move.
I especially like this movie when you consider it along with the hikikomori phenomenon. Hikikomori is a noun and a verb used to describe the act of or a person who withdraw from social life, seeking extreme degrees of isolation. This often occurs among people in their late twenties, when they’re supposed to be making the transition to adulthood. There are factors in Japan that allow this to occur, including the willingness of parents to support grown children. I can’t lie, I daydream about becoming a hikikomori. So I had a hard time relating to the characters’, especially Harue’s, fear of loneliness. I have a hard time connecting with people, which I definitely understand is an issue that other people have, but I rarely feel lonely.
Anyway, I like to think about this movie in the context of today’s technology. It’s been eleven years since the movie came out and our processing power and internet speed have increased greatly since then. Plus, there are way more ways to share info. Imagine if there were a ghost-program like this on Twitter or Youtube or Facebook? Or if you had an ap for the Forbidden Room on your phone? I don’t normally want remakes but it would be interesting to see a new take on this story in five or ten more years.
So here’s a horror movie that holds a mirror up to a social phenomenon and takes it to its most extreme form. What would happen if, out of fear of being alone, everyone just quit being alive so they could be together and not alive? Your turn, romantic comedies.