There are four kinds of horror films: the kind that scare you, the kind that horrify you, the kind that haunt you, and the kind that do none of the above. There is crossover, but it is possible to classify everything into one of those four. [•REC] scared. The Midnight Meat Train horrified. Session 9 haunted. Kairo (or Pulse, in English) tried very hard to haunt, but unfortunately, for me, ended up doing none of the above.
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira), Kairo is about what would happen if limbo reaches capacity and souls are forced to emigrate back into the realm of the living. The medium of travel is the Internet (pre ubiquity), which works much better as a metaphor than a plot device.
Don't get me wrong, there are some very creepy moments in this movie. It very well could boast the most convincing ghosts ever committed to film. They stalk the living, forcing them to believe in their presence, and (in an eerie mirror of the human shadows left after the atomic flash) leave sooty prints of their souls on walls all over Tokyo. But Kairo's heady (and heavy) meditation on humanity--as nothing more than a collection of particles forever orbiting one another in a cosmos of infinite emptiness--lifts it so far above your average horror fare as to place it into another genre altogether. Kairo is a philosophical film masquerading as a horror movie (unlike its American remake, which I understand to be a turd masquerading as a candy bar). And like most philosophical films, it is short on story and character and long on exposition and concept. I can easily see how, under different circumstances, I might have come away from this film haunted and disturbed. A brief survey of viewer response over at IMDB reveals that a few people actually consider this the scariest movie they have ever seen. Perhaps my nerves are getting deadened from this little experiment. Frankly, I expected the opposite. Maybe I'll survive with my wits intact after all.
Scorecard (out of ten skulls):
My psychological status: