Western horror has been slow to pick up on the themes explored and dissected by much recent Asian fare. Still content with rampaging hillbillies, with or without merchandise-friendly facial plastics, Hollywood has been continuing to personify evil via the same old archetypes, whilst Eastern audiences have been getting their chills from sources much closer to home. For them, the knife is much less worrying than the dishwasher used to clean it.
You may be familiar with the likes of The Videotape What Can Kill You (1998, Hideo Nakata), or possibly even The Phone What Can Kill You (2002, Byeong-ki Ahn), but in-between these slabs of technology-ran-amok hokum, came two hours of surreal eeriness in the form of The Website What Can Kill You, written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and also known as Kairo, or, indeed, Pulse.
Kurosawa is so unconcerned with nonsense like exposition and, on occasion, formal narrative, that Kairo may appear to some to be bewildering at best, pretentious naval-gazing at worst.
But if one is going to spend two hours gazing at a naval, this is certainly a fine example of such to be getting on with.
The plot, at face value anyhow, concerns a website which rudely pops up unannounced on the screens of various browsers, enquiring as to whether or not one would wish to meet a ghost? As spam goes, it's certainly much more intriguing than Free Prescription Drugs What Weren't Stolen, Honest. Before long pretty much every character, and anyone said characters ever bumped into for half a second, have been enticed by this supernatural pitch, and have got clicking where none clicking should be performed.
This is the bare-bones of the plot, and as far as action or spooky hijinks go, that's almost your lot. Because Kairo is less concerned with silly ghost stories than it is with the isolation, the depersonalisation brought on by this influx of communication technologies. The characters wander around in a monosyllabic daze for much of the film, exhibiting the social skills of especially sheltered hedgehogs. Tellingly, only the young fellow who hasn't much of a clue about this whole internet malarkey is fit to consistently string a sentence together for the duration of the running-time.
Explanations are offered as to why these websites are cropping up, why strange, shadowy forms are suddenly appearing every time you turn a corner, and why folks are getting all hystericalised and boarding up rooms as quick as they've been erected. Some of these hypothetical ponderings are granted a fair amount of consideration; others are shrugged off, never to be mentioned again.
The one that Kurosawa seems most intrigued by, however, is the notion that the afterlife, rather than being an infinite plane, is in fact full-up, and so now the spirits of folk what died must wander about between realities, cropping up here and there and freaking the shit out of anyone they come into contact with, via some out-of-focus contortions and gravity-defying hair.