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Originally published Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Pulse": The IT gods help us

The American remake of "Pulse," scheduled for release next year, might prove interesting since Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 2001 Japanese original...

Special to The Seattle Times

The American remake of "Pulse," scheduled for release next year, might prove interesting since Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 2001 Japanese original leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Finally getting a limited U.S. release, the original is a typically creepy exercise in Japanese techno-horror, but we've seen a lot of this stuff since Kurosawa's "Cure" helped kick-start the trend in 1997. "Pulse" delivers more of the same.

Granted, what's there is definitely worth seeing for fans of the genre, which is overhyped but consistently intriguing. This time, Kurosawa (no relation to the legendary director Akira Kurosawa) takes the "ghost in the machine" theme to ominous extremes, beginning with the suicide of a young computer hacker who'd discovered a strange Web site that functions as a kind of supernatural conduit for the lonely souls of an overcrowded afterlife.

Movie review 2.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Pulse," with Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki. Written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. 118 minutes. Not rated; contains frightening images and brief violence. In Japanese with English subtitles. Varsity.

It's as if cyberspace had suddenly beckoned from the beyond. Pretty soon all of Tokyo is affected by this necro-virus, and the presence of nebulous black spirits spells doom and gloom for anyone who sees them.

At its best, "Pulse" presents an end-of-the-world scenario that renders everyone suicidal and Tokyo a silent, drab-colored ghost town. Late in the film, there's a spectacular event that the American remake (judging by its preview trailer) cannot improve upon.

It's the images and Takeshi Haketa's haunting score, not the weak story, that make "Pulse" as eerie as it is. Kurosawa could shave 30 minutes from this two-hour film and not lose anything substantial. Too much of the lazily structured narrative is repetitious and geared to support Kurosawa's moody theme of loneliness and detachment caused by modern technology.

That's a theme worth exploring, but Kurosawa gives it only a surface gloss. While it's rattling your nerves, "Pulse" leaves your brain wanting more.

Jeff Shannon:

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