If we were to try and come up with a canon of Cold World* cinema then Kurosawa’s “Pulse” would certainly have to be included.
Pulse tackles the obligatory social themes of contemporary J-Horror, atomization and hyper-mediation, not to mention Japan’s extravagant suicide rate, via fears over technology as a vehicle for the return of destructive or vengeful spirits and the disease like nature of the curse, expanding them to apocalyptic levels hinted at but not fully revealed at the end of the later Ring.
Ring’s cheerless vision of the family, in which father and son meet each other in the street without acknowledgement, in which both effectively commit suicide (along with the wife/mother) by watching the cursed tape and who must then pass the death-curse on to the father/grandfather in an infinite chain of deferral, is perhaps actually more heartening than Pulses in which not only the family but any kind of compensatory peer group don’t exist at all. Did you have any friends? the heroine asks the nominal hero toward the end as all the energy is drained from the world, Japan implodes in a wave of mass suicides and they try to escape through a monumentally grey and emptied out Tokyo. Maybe one, but she died, comes the reply.
By the film’s end, as the heroine escapes with a few survivors on a ship, it’s obvious that the problem is international, a kind of Global Jonestown. Everywhere else is closed down, but the captain informs us they are still picking up signals from South America, so this is where they decide to head. It’s hard not to chuckle as this brilliant allegory for the depredations of Late Capitalism scans the globe for an alternative and finds it there. Accidental Bolivarianism.
*As an aside, Japanese doom band Corrupted (who sing in Spanish, for some reason) due to play in London and then at The Supersonic festival next week, have released a record called “ El Mundo Frio”.