In an era where isolation and loneliness are far from alien, director Kiyoshi Kurasawa shows us the true horrors of technological acceleration.
Set in Tokyo, the film features two parallel storylines that focus on an apocalyptic phenomenon of a ghostly invasion through the internet. The first story revolves around Michi Kudo (Kumiko Asô), Junko Sasano (Kurume Arisaka), Toshio Yabe (Masatoshi Matsuo) and Taguchi (Kenji Mizuhashi), who all work together at a plant nursery. After noticing that Taguchi has been missing for days, Michi pays him a visit and finds him distracted and quiet. As a horrific event ensues, Michi sees a series of uncanny and bleak images on Taguchi’s computer that starts affecting her as well. The second story follows economics student Ryosuke Kawashima (Haruhiko Katô) who has recently signed up to a new service provider on his computer. Strangely, it starts accessing a dubious website on its own accompanied by disturbing videos and images of people alone in dark rooms, which an IT expert—Harue Karasawa (Koyuki)—then attempts to explore.
As the two narratives meet, people start vanishing and ghosts start invading Tokyo via the computers. This is the pinnacle of techno-horror and the atmosphere throughout is consistently disconcerting as well as enigmatic. Utilizing liminal space and shadows in the film, the line between reality and the realm of the other world becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish. What is most striking however is the sense of loneliness that gradually builds up. Despite all the connections and supposed accessibility that technology provides, it propagates the exact opposite of what’s expected. The ghost invasion and their hunt for more souls show how desperate one becomes when forsaken: after all, if you can’t make genuine connections, why not invite others to be lonely with you?
This could represent the danger of technological acceleration-particularly since the advent of social media, where people are encouraged to make connections online. It becomes a chain reaction where people feel compelled to put their lives online more, but at the same time, it makes all of us more desolate. In turn, this pulls even more people in, inviting us all to succumb to the lonely world of the internet under the disguise of a tight-knit community. While this 2001 film certainly doesn’t (and couldn’t) explicitly refer to more modern social media such as Twitter and Facebook, it peruses a timeless concept that can be applied to a lot of the contemporary technology used today. The higher the rate of connectivity online, the more we’re likely to ignore what’s right under our noses. The ghosts and people share a few common traits: a deep desire to have a meaningful connection and wanting to overcome existential dread, but only one of them permanently seek more beings to entrap them together in their lonely pursuit of nothingness.