Movie Review – Pulse

Depressing, methodical, tiresome “horror” film masquerading as something intelligent, Pulse lacks anything of the sort.


– Summary –

Director :  Jim Sonzero
Year Of Release :  2006
Principal Cast :  Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Milian, Rock Gonzalez, Jonathan Tucker, Sam Levine, Octavia L Spencer, Ron Rifkin, Joseph Gatt, Zach Grenier, Brad Dourif.
Approx Running Time :  90 Minutes
Synopsis:  When their computer hacker friend accidentally channels a mysterious wireless signal, a group of co-eds rally to stop a terrifying evil from taking over the world.
What we think : Depressing, methodical, tiresome “horror” film masquerading as something intelligent, Pulse lacks anything of the sort.


If I was to ask you if you knew what a Blue Movie was, what would you say to me? Some kind of sleazy porno? Cheap, nasty home video? A video that looks like it was shot at the same time James Cameron made Aliens?

Kristen Bell ain't playin' no detective here....
Kristen Bell ain’t playin’ no detective here….

In the case of Pulse, it’s the third option. Pulse is a dreary, depressingly hard to enjoy film, even if it is well filmed. I have never, in all my film watching days, seen a film so Blue. There’s not a natural colour to be seen, almost, in this flick. Every tinge of color has been desaturated with a depressing, thick layer of blue tint, making this film feel so deadeningly depressing it’s hard to know what to start enjoying about it.

For those unaware, Pulse is a remake of a little known (at least, little known in Australia) Japanese film called Kairo. Similarly to The Eye, Ring, and The Grudge, all of which were remakes of successful Japanese films, Pulse takes the original idea, set’s it in the US (or at least, with English language) and makes a complete shemozzle of it with more money.

I'll hold the door open for you, okay?
I’ll hold the door open for you, okay?

Pulse tells an apocalyptic story of a strange computer virus unleashing demons and spirits into our world, who promptly proceed to suck the life out of anybody who gets near them. What begins as a seemingly innocuous teen-horror high-school flick, in the vein of The Faculty or even Swimfan, goes off on such a high-concept bender about half way through, by the end of it you have planes crashing, people committing suicide in much the same quantity as The Happening, and a vision of a world where our cities are free of habitation, save the few ghostly apparitions that haunt the windows.

I was certainly not expecting that, especially after seeing the cover of the DVD on the shelf, and thinking it was some kind of cyber-ghost story, I thought it could be good for a look. It wasn’t quite what it made itself out to be, a kind of They  mixed with The Happening  mixed with any film by Hitchcock…. without the class.

Straight hair on top..... what's down below?
Straight hair on top….. what’s down below?

Almost every scene is so dreary to look at, so depressing to simply keep your eyes on, that by the end of the film you kinda want the world to explode so the pain will end. It’s a seemingly endless stream of blurry images, half seen ghostly attacks and badly filmed “look through the eyehole and something will jump out at you” moments that are so inordinately lame, and thoroughly telegraphed, and utterly ridiculous, you start to doubt that the film will generate any kind of momentum. Indeed, there’s almost no momentum in this film at all. The acting is third rate at best, and not even the lovely Christina Milian, who co-stars as a young woman who seems to be.. well, who knows what Milian is doing in this film, but it’s not great, whatever it is.

Kristen Bell, who plays our female hero Mattie, see’s her boyfriend hang himself in his bedroom, after he suddenly becomes sullen, segregational, and silent. This devastation is perceived by some as simply another in a seemingly increasing coincidence of multiple suicides. However, when more and more people become afflicted with this dreadful affliction, the black bruises and sullen, withdrawn attitudes, and more people throw themselves off buildings and in front of vehicles, the sinister truth is revealed.

In your face!
In your face!

To say Pulse is any kind of genre film would be to say Titanic is simply a film about a boat sinking. Pulse is blatant shock-tactic film-making, all blurry, out of focus edited-by-a-thresher “jump” stuff that does little for your imagination and wonders for a decent home theater setup. As mentioned earlier, the scares really aren’t that scary, any fan of horror films, or thriller films will see most of the “jumpy” moments coming a mile away. The tension is derived not from the peril the characters are in, but the “scary” creatures hidden away in the darkness… and there’s a lot of darkness. It was awfully hard to make out what was going on half the time, to be honest. The film is intensely dark, to the point it’s virtually pointless with all the digital effects, because you really can’t see them. Perhaps that’s a good thing: some of the effects were a little poor.

And the script leaves a lot to be desired. I laughed out loud (never a good sign from me in a horror film…) when our main characters, who have to try and get a computer virus to a “computer provider” building in order to try and stop these creatures from another dimension (or whatever they are), are told this by a guy freaking out on adrenaline, and so they run, helter skelter to a building, which just happens to have the words “Computer Store” writ large on the front so the audience can get the point. Guh!

The acting is atrocious, from all involved. There is virtually no character development on screen, save for some quickly forgotten dialogue. Plenty of references to technology and all that, but for all the “witty”, “snappy” patter from our cast at the start, it’s all meaningless in the end, and fails to generate any associations with the viewer. It’s movie making by numbers, essentially. Kristen Bell, who most would recognize from her TV show Veronica Mars, is given nothing from her fellow cast-members, and even the normally reliable Ron Rifkin delivers some of cinema’s most clunky, brain-blowing dialogue. His scenes with Bell in their therapy sessions are beyond awkwardly scripted, they are just dreadful. Why he signed on for this is beyond me.

Creepy face is creepy.
Creepy face is creepy.

Things deteriorate quite rapidly once the suicides and weird events begin to happen with more frequency. Although, it must be mentioned, that the opening pre-credits sequence itself doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film: things already appear to be pretty damn bad. Pulse manages to eke out a little tension when our heroes, Bell and Lost star Ian Somerhalder are racing to Save The Day. But just when you think things are on the improve, and the film is starting to generate some excitement, director Jim Sonzero manages to ruin things with some dreadful editing, appalling logic and simple, bad, direction. Sonzero may be okay at commercials, but he’s crap at feature length storytelling. Just because somebody’s got a good eye for film, and can make images arresting (and some in Pulse actually are visually arresting!) he’s got no sense of story, lacking the ability to construct an empathetic hero character (Bell simply runs about, crying and screaming a lot) and throwing in some new fellow half way through the film who ends up being more a hero than anybody else….

There’s something to be said for truly scary movies. They seem to have something films like Pulse lack: characters we care about, and a plot that’s not driven by crazy, wild leaps in logic that defy the audiences ability to suspend disbelief. You’d be mad to think that Pulse was a good film: it’s got high production values, I’ll give it that. Perhaps it’s the fact that it was filmed in Eastern Europe instead of the US that gives the film it’s depressing, Hostel-creepy quality.

It’s a brave person who sticks Pulse into their DVD player and expects a film of any sort of quality. With a script and acting like this, it’s no wonder those idiots who make Stupid Movie, Superhero Movie and all that crap keep getting films greenlit.








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