STUDIO:  Magnolia
MSRP:  $16.98
RUNNING TIME:  200 Minutes

The Pitch

“Hey y’all, you ever noticed how Japanese ghosts haunt you like this and Thai ghosts haunt you like this?”

The Humans

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation)
Starring:  Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Kayuki, Kurumi Arisaka, Matsatoshi Matsuo

Sick Nurses:
Directors:  Piraphan Laoyont, Thodsapol Siriwiwat
Starring:  Chol Wachananont, Wichan Jarujinda, Chidjan Rujiphun, Kanya Rattanapetch, Dollaros Dachapratumwan, Ocha Wang, Ampairat Techapoowapat, Ampaiwan Techapoowapat


The Nutshell

Pulse:  A couple of college kids try to figure out the cause of several suicides, eventually linking them back to a website that promises the visitor a chance to meet a ghost.

Sick Nurses:  An unscrupulous doctor and his gaggle of nurses run an organ harvesting ring.  When one of them loses her nerve and threatens to call the police, they kill her and stuff her body in the trunk of the doctor’s car.  Obviously that’s not the last we see of her.

The Lowdown

Opposite ends of the spectrum.

I used to play “Emperor Palpatine Has A Cold” when I was a kid, too.

That’s the phrase that kept popping into my head as I was watching these two movies.  You can do a lot with a simple ghost story – hell we’ve been telling them almost since the dawn of time – and admittedly I was a little confused as to why these two movies showed up side-by-side on a “Double Feature DVD.”  After all, there was nothing thematic linking them, they were from two completely different countries and there was nothing similar in the filmmaking techniques.  But finally it dawned on me that at the end of the day they were both ghost stories and it kinda felt like an exercise in showing the versatility of the sub-genre (and maybe even a bit of an exercise in “how to do it/how not to do it,” filmmaking-wise).

We start with Pulse (or Kairo, in its native Japanese), a ghost story by Kiyoshi Kurosawa that’s small in cinematic terms but big in ideas.  In a lot of ways it’s a ghost story in name only, as Kurosawa takes a lot of liberties in what actually makes a ghost.  There’s a lot going on under the surface here and even though it stumbles from time to time it really does a fine job of walking that line between thoughtful existentialism and self-indulgent navel-gazing.

The girls thought that supergluing their hands together would make them a lock for the Red Rover contest.  The subsequent horror would be the stuff of legend.  They never held another Red Rover contest again.

But all that said, it’s still a ghost story and it’s a damn fine one.  Kurosawa knows how to balance all of the big ideas with extreme tension and brief (but effective) moments of violence.  Simply put, it’s scary.  Not only in what it shows on you screen, but also in how it makes you feel.  There’s an undercurrent of hopelessness here and even though it’s not the primary motivation and there is a bit of an uplift at the very end, you still tend to walk away from it feeling very small, in a universal sense.  It’s not a flawless movie but it’s certainly very well made and succeeds in virtually everything it sets out to do.

So, once you’re on the relative high from that experience, you’re plunged into Sick Nurses.  A complete 180 in almost every way from Pulse, Nurses is a film that doesn’t really have much use for subtlety, nuance or…well…much else in the way of competent filmmaking.  It takes entirely too long to establish its threadbare plot and it goes to great lengths to introduce characters that don’t have any depth whatsoever.  But once it kicks into high gear?  It’s amazingly fun.  Dozens upon dozens of gallons of crimson, kills that are amazingly inventive and original (and a couple that are relative eye rollers, just to be fair) and an ending twist/death/reveal that came completely out of the parking lot behind left-field.  A serious “What the FUCK” moment that would leave Mr. Shyamalan feeling more inadequate than Jason Statham in London.  And then it just ends.  And as the credits roll you’re left sitting there asking yourself what the fuck just happened.  How did this movie that started out so goddamned tedious and trite end up being so much fucking fun?  Not good, it’s important to remember, but fun.  And honestly?  I still don’t really know.  But I’m sure I’ll revisit it at some point and that’s honestly saying something.

A little somethin’ for the fellas.

It also bears mentioning that both of these movies are on Netflix Instant at the moment.

The Package

The artwork’s kinda dull – the one-sheets for both films laid out side-by-side with the incredibly clever signifier “HORROR DOUBLE FEATURE” emblazoned across the top.  Hooray for truth in advertising.

Feature-wise?  Nada.  No room for features with both films on the same disc, I suppose.

OVERALL 8 out of 10