(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: Pulse proves you don’t need a jump scare to induce goosebumps.)
20 years after its initial Japanese release, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s supernatural chiller Pulse (Kairo) hits closer to home than ever. The similarities between the film’s events and the global pandemic lends a prescient quality to Pulse that reads differently today. Kurosawa’s unsettling ghost story draws basis from a terrifying concept; a heavily overcrowded afterlife caused the dead to spill over into the world of the living. It spreads like a viral infection, plunging the globe into despair and death through the very thing meant to connect us – technology.
Everything about Pulse set it apart from the J-horror craze that swept through horror at the turn of the century. Instead of long-haired ghosts in white or jump-scare laden curses, Kurosawa opts for a slow-burn atmosphere that coils the unease tighter at every turn through the power of suggestion. Never is that more evident that the movie’s scariest scene that shows the ghostly invasion in action. Kurosawa transforms the seemingly mundane into pure nightmare fuel with the surreal appearance of a haunted figure.
(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror. In this edition: 28 Days Later relies on stakes and staging to draw out tension in its most intense scene.)
The early aughts marked a substantial shift in the zombie subgenre. The back-to-back releases of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake introduced faster, meaner swarms of zombies that couldn’t be outmaneuvered quite as easily as their predecessors. While the former technically classifies as an outbreak feature rather than a zombie movie, 28 Days Later bears all the hallmarks of a post-apocalypse zombie movie made famous by George A. Romero. No matter where you fall on the zombie debate, nearly all agree that Boyle changed the genre landscape with a kinetic horror film that brought poignancy and terror in equal measure.
No scene exemplifies the nail-biting intensity of 28 Days Later quite like the stress-inducing flat tire that pushes the limits of a narrow escape. Boyle maximizes the suspense through expert staging, heightened emotions and sound, and already established stakes to deliver one of the most unforgettable moments in modern horror.