Asian horror remakes hit a new low with Pulse, the Americanized version of the creepy yet random Japanese flick Kairo. Pulse has an identical plot to Kairo, yet tacks on unneeded special effects, which ultimately make the film even worse.
Pulse stars "Veronica Mars" hottie Kristen Bell as Mattie Webber, a college-aged girl who begins to realize that there are ghosts in her city's electronics after her computer hacker friend commits suicide. The movie goes on to explain that her friend managed to hack into some kind of high security system that unleashed a terrifying evil that spreads via wireless signal. If you get anything more out of the plot than that, you're way ahead of me - and I've seen two different versions of the same movie. Ian Somerhalder and Christina Milian also star.
First off, the plot was pretty idiotic in Kairo, and it's just as much in Pulse. High-tech evil has never been very convincing to me, and the very thought of it isn't scary at all. Sequences where ghosts are watching the actors through webcams, contacting them on Instant Messenger and printing out creepy faces are just silly. At least, unlike in Kairo, everyone is computer illiterate - one of the most unconvincing parts of the Japanese original was that the main character didn't know a single thing about computers. Nevertheless, the plots are too similar, which of course begs the question, "What's the point?" Are American horror writers that strained for ideas that they have to resort to remaking so-so Asian horror movies?
As with Kairo, Pulse gets more interesting near the end as things become very, very bleak, along the lines of Dawn of the Dead, but, unfortunately, Pulse is not Dawn of the Dead. Had the movie expanded more on this final act of the film and perhaps showed this world in more detail, Pulse could have sets itself apart from its Japanese equivalent and also given me something exciting to watch. Instead, it ends with a much less satisfying final shot.
Now, onto the special effects. Director Jim Sonzero really didn't put much effort into making Pulse actually scary, but it's the special effects that really kill the film. Kairo was at least moderately effective because it had a lower budget and grittier graphics. Pulse is Americanized and thus has many more "see the ghost out of the corner of your eyes" shots, and when the ghosts are shown in full view, they really aren't that scary. Instead of looking like something being transmitted on a radio wave, they just look like ordinary ghosts, which again begs the question, "What's the point?" When will America learn that horror movies do not need special effects to be scary - they need proper atmosphere.
Pulse fails miserably as a horror movie. Those who haven't seen Kairo may find the story moderately intriguing, but you know what I'm going to say next: you might as well just go and rent Kairo. Pulse fails to take advantage of the decent cast and definitely failed to give me nightmares.
Even though you shouldn't bother with the movie, the DVD does offer a few goodies. The deleted scenes are halfway decent, and an alternate ending (or an additional ending) is probably more effective than what is used in the movie. Other features include "Creating the Fear: Making Pulse", "The Visual Effects of Pulse", "Pulse and the Paranormal" and two feature commentaries.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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