I didn't always understand it, but "Kairo" (also known as "Pulse") is a chilling import from Japan that proves that not all own Asian horror is the same.
Now out in limited theaters, "Kairo" is a beautifully-directed little film that draws you into its atmosphere even though it moves at an incredibly slow pace and offers nothing in the way of gore or traditional scares. Still, the hauntingly dark settings and brooding shadows make for some genuinely scary moments, which benefit from the fact that the film is at times pretty grainy. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has taken advantage of such film quality by literally blending the lines between the shadows and ghosts. The dead that are in this film often appear out of nowhere, but they appear slowly as if being created out of a shadow that has existed on-camera for what seems like minutes.
While creepy and quite good, "Kairo" is not without its flaws. The lead character, played by Haruhiko Katô, is a little too idiotic to believe; he is so bad at computers that he has to write down how to click a mouse. While little fault can be blamed on the actor, he is never well-written enough to really make the audience feel for him, other than that he's an all-around nice guy. Furthermore, the ending blatantly shows the film's budget holes, as it attempts to portray (SPOILER ALERT) an apocalypse with very poor computer graphics. There is a five minute stretch where everything looks like a video game, which is strange since the rest of the movie looks absolutely fine.
"Kairo" is an intriguing little horror movie that is best watched at night, in the dark and on your couch. American audiences, expecting a faster trip, may not find the film as appealing, but it has a lot to offer if you let it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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