Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:58:57

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 Japanese Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Title

Award-winning filmmaker, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is one of the more interesting contributors to the J-Horror cycle (a subgenre for which I admit to having no particular affection), and Pulse (Kairo) might very well be his finest entry of them all. Setting his story in the burgeoning internet and social media scene in Japan, Kurosawa’s dark and apocalyptic film foretells how technology will only serve to isolate us as it grows more important to our lives.

The basic story is relatively simple: A group of young people in Tokyo begin to experience strange phenomena involving missing friends and co-workers and a mysterious website which asks the compelling question, “Do you want to meet a ghost?” After the unexpected suicides of several friends, three strangers set out to explore a city which is growing emptier by the day, and to solve the mystery of what lies within a forbidden room in an abandoned construction site, mysteriously sealed shut with red packing tape.

One wishes that the film had focused on fewer people so that the characters could have been developed in a more intimate manner, but Junichiro Hayashi’s cinematography often provides enough existential dread to sustain our interests even if the characterizations fall short. Those who have seen Hideo Nakata Ring (Ringu) and Dark Water will remember Hayashi’s work on those films and can expect more of the same here as it sets a dark and unsettling tone which lingers long after the movie is over.
Opinion is bound to be split between those who see the film as ahead of its time and those who consider it outdated (which it admittedly is from a technology standpoint), but it is probably worth seeing if only to decide which group you happen to fall into.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Tommy Pocket and what is presumably the film’s original one sheet artwork. This is one of those occasions when Arrow’s newly commissioned artwork is vastly superior (but this tends to be the case with their releases of Japanese titles). As is their custom, they also include an attractive booklet that features an essay on the film by Chuck Stephens entitled “The Smudge.” It should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film and adds value to the modest package.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

Dark cinematography is wonderfully effective when it is done correctly (or at least in a certain manner). I’m thinking of such titles as David Fincher’s Seven and the inky blacks that saturate the image thanks to the bleach bypass process. However, the murkiness that swallows so many J-Horror titles is less attractive. Details never seem to be at the level they should be and one sometimes wonders what they are even seeing. This might be intentional, but if this methodology was successful, the viewer wouldn’t be wondering whether or not they were watching an inferior transfer. This particular title is a case in point.

Arrow’s transfer is probably faithful to the original source, but it is difficult to know if this might look better with a new scan of the source materials. The grainy image is dark and murky with limited detail and a narrow range of color, but it is superior to the previous DVD transfers that have been released. Frankly, if the “shot through dirty linen” look is intentional, it was a bad choice on Kurosawa’s part (but I suppose that this is simply one person’s subjective opinion). The booklet claims that the digital source was supplied by Kadokawa Pictures, and one imagines that it could have seen marginal improvement had they taken the time to rescan the film at a higher resolution. Clarity isn’t at all what it should be (nor is it consistent). Contrast is relatively nonexistent and black levels are faded and cloudy. Artifacts are ridiculously apparent as well, and this is especially frustrating.

Having said this, it doesn’t seem worth holding one’s breath until something better comes along.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Japanese Linear PCM audio transfer won’t give your speaker systems much of a workout, but this is a solid representation of the original source and is relatively flawless.

SS04

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Broken Circuits – (HD) – (43:53)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s interview is more comprehensive in scope than one might expect, and one expects that most cinephiles will agree that it is the strongest supplement on the disc. His career is discussed at length as the production of Pulse. One doesn’t really even have to be a fan of the film or the director to find this conversation interesting.

Creepy Images – (HD) – (25:03)

Junichiro Hayashi’s shorter and slightly less comprehensive interview is nonetheless incredibly informative as the cinematographer reminisces about his collaborative relationship with Kiyoshi Kurosawa (and even briefly discusses Kiju Yoshida). Pulse is given the most in-depth consideration as Hayashi reveals a few interesting anecdotal revelations that should be of special interest to fans of the film.

The Horror of Isolation – (HD) – (17:11)

Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett (You’re Next, Blair Witch) discuss their admiration for Kiyoshi Kurosawa and for Pulse in particular as they reveal how the film has had an influence on their work. While their analysis of Kurosawa’s work is interesting enough, one cannot help but think that this featurette would be more interesting if these two filmmakers actually made better films. However, some of their insights do manage to add to one’s appreciation of Pulse, and the interview is worth watching for this reason alone.

The Making of Pulse – (SD) – (41:03)

This is the sort of EPK bundle one expects upon a film’s release, but this manages to be more interesting than anyone has a right to expect due to the included “behind the scenes” footage contained within what is essentially a hodgepodge of cast and crew interviews and trailers for the film. The interviews never really delve past the surface of the material and have obviously been composed to sell the film. However, Kurosawa’s interviews do manage to be rather interesting at times.

Special Effects Breakdown Featurettes:

These short special effects featurettes give fans the opportunity to discover some general information about what went into the special effects included in the following scenes:

The Suicide Jump – (SD) – (06:22)

Harue’s Death Scene – (SD) – (05:02)

Junko’s Death Scene – (SD) – (04:31)

Dark Room Scenes – (SD) – (10:18)

Tokyo Premiere Introduction – (SD) – (07:04)

This is archival footage of Kurosawa and his three primary actors introducing the preview screening in Tokyo. These participants discuss their involvement in a rather general manner, and nothing here really adds to one’s knowledge about (or appreciation of) the film. However, fans will welcome the inclusion of this introduction if only as an artifact from the film’s initial release.

Cannes Film Festival – (SD) – (02:57)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Haruhiko Kato introduce Pulse at the Cannes Film Festival. Their speech is short, sweet, and not at all revealing. However, it is nice to have here as a kind of curiosity (especially if you happen to admire the film or its director).

TV Spots – (SD) – (04:15)

These television spots are really more interesting than effective, but many will find them to be a fun addition to the disc.

NHK Station IDs – (SD) – (00:15)

The principal actors appear in these station IDs, and it is difficult to know exactly what to make of them.

SS05

Final Words:

Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse offers a slightly disappointing image transfer that is nonetheless superior to all of the previous home video releases. Their supplemental package sweetens the deal just enough to warrant a recommendation to fans of the J-horror sub-genre.

SS06

Review by: Devon Powell

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s