Since I regularly complain that my computer is possessed by the devil, and never mind the curse of Microsoft Word, you can count me as being somewhat unsympathetic to the Japanese collegiates here whose PCs become conduits for the dead. Do these students lose any documents? Do they miss any deadlines? Does a single errant keystroke of—oh, let's just say F12—suddenly crash the entire server and prevent a newspaper's publication? Made in 2001 by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure), Pulse isn't exactly pulsing with excitement; it's more a slow-motion chase through a gradually depopulated Tokyo—The Omega Man without Charlton Heston or the zombies.
Michi (Kumiko Aso) works at a greenhouse whose computer tech is driven to suicide by a webcam site that originates, yes, from beyond the grave. Soon the cyber-affliction spreads, prompting more suicides and leaving ghostly charcoal traces of the deceased— rather like the infamous silhouettes at Hiroshima. When a creeped-out econ student describes his problem to a geek beauty at the campus computer lab, she correctly guesses, "Windows?" Does she even need to ask? Thank God our iPods are safe. But televisions and cell phones are also infected, and the death toll rises—quite undramatically.
There are some ideas floating around here: The afterlife is overcrowded; we the living are endangered by coming into close proximity with one another; and maybe there's more community feeling among the dead than the quick. But none of it feels terribly urgent owing to the Windows 98 pacing and lack of real frights in Kurosawa's Pulse. Hideo Nakata would run Ringus around it. (NR)