Watching: Ghosts in the Machine

Literal ones.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re recommending two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations based on the movies we think will pair well — with each other and with you.


Your weekly double feature: Viral horror

Haruhiko Kato and Koyuki in “Pulse,” by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.Magnolia Pictures

With each new leap in technology, there’s almost always a subsequent wave of science fiction and horror films that fret about the worst-case scenario, in which these marvelous creations overwhelm their creators. As the internet has transformed society, 21st-century filmmakers have turned out countless films about literal ghosts in the machine, infecting our shared digital landscape.

In the case of “Unfriended,” now streaming on Netflix, the internet influences the very nature of film direction. “Unfriended” takes place entirely on a teenager’s desktop, as she and a few classmates discover that a girl driven to suicide a year earlier may be having her revenge online. Though released six years ago, most of the platforms on display here — Skype, Facebook and Spotify, for starters — are still active, and the film uncannily replicates the way high schoolers click around and socialize, as a supernatural force picks them off one by one. The kids’ inability to peel themselves away from their screens is relatable, to say the least.


A viral menace of a different kind plagues Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Pulse,” which didn’t get enough attention during the Japanese horror blitz that hit the United States in the early 2000s. The “pulse” of the title is a rogue wireless signal that takes on a life of its own, triggering a rash of suicides and aberrant behavior as it passes from one user to another. The effort to stop the signal gets a bit confusing, but Kurosawa’s mastery of sound and visual effects turns an electronic glitch into a jerky, terrifying apparition. It also suggests a purgatorial space between death and the afterlife, where humans are condemned to flicker for eternity. (Make sure you don’t inadvertently rent the 2006 American remake, which is dismal.) — Scott Tobias

Stream “Unfriended” on Netflix. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Rent “Pulse” on Amazon, Apple TV and Vudu.



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