"Pulse," by the Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is probably the quietest end-of-the-world movie ever made. In it, we perish with neither bang nor whimper, but with the faint crackle of interference over a computer speaker.
Set in today's smoggy, crowded, gritty Tokyo, it begins with a circle of handsome young people affiliated with a greenhouse or, in a couple of cases, a university. One of them commits suicide, quite naturally upsetting the others.
He is gone . . . or is he? Each of his friends begins to encounter strange happenings, usually via their ubiquitous computers. Someone will suddenly realize the one-eyed beast has come on, unsolicited, late at night. They'll lean close and see what appears to be nothing but fuzz, a growling, pointillist blur of dots, but slowly images emerge from the murk in some sort of shaggy, awkward rhythm and it seems their friend is trying to reach them. Is the computer screen a viewing box to some kind of alternate existence? Is there a ghost in the machine?
At the same time, people begin disappearing. The disappearances, however, aren't characterized as acts of violence but more like some kind of crossing over. They leave disturbing traces behind -- a vanishing seems affiliated, in some way, with a smear of dark color, almost like a chalked abstraction. Meanwhile, the music is getting eerier and eerier.
"Pulse" is best enjoyed if it's not questioned too closely. It lives visually in a way it cannot live intellectually. Like the best horror movies, it doesn't beat you over the head, splatter you, or fold, spindle and mutilate you. Rather, slowly and subtly, it creeps you out. You may go home and throw out your computer and lock the doors.
-- Stephen Hunter