One of the highlights to emerge from last year’s Sundance Film Festival was the debut feature from non-binary filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. Their experimental, microbudget ‘screenlife’ horror film is a coming-of-age tale about a teenager whose perceptions of reality and fantasy begins to blur when she engages in an online role-playing game.
Today We’re All Going to the World’s Fair sees its wider theatrical release and for our Friday Night Film pick, we recommend another film that explores existential isolation in the online age, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s modern Japanese horror classic Pulse.
Released in 2001 before our contemporary digital malaise, Kurosawa anticipates our current disconnection and explores our increasingly reliant relationship with technology through his trademark tones of darkness and dread.
There may be no better filmmaker at capturing that feeling of lingering terror and here he collaborates with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi from famed “J-Horror” entries Ringu and Dark Water to create a visual landscape that is both natural and discomforting; muted greys and browns, shadow-stained walls, deserted city streets – all in service of its eerie melancholy.
Inspired by the Japanese phenomenon known as “Hikikomori”, referring to severe social withdrawal, Pulse is a prescient and terrifying vision of the modern world that wonders whether the digital ghosts loom in our subconscious or in our bedrooms.