Trivia Kirsten Dunst was set to star and Wes Craven was set to direct, but both pulled out for various reasons.
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5th Mar 07
When their computer hacker friend accidentally channels a mysterious wireless signal, a bunch of good looking teens rally to stop a terrifying evil from taking over the world.
As with all good teen horror, Pulse starts with one of those preludes that, at the time, make very little sense. In this case the scenario is a college student who we later find out is called Josh (Jonathan Tucker) wandering around a library looking for another guy whose name we later find out is Zieglar. Of course, he doesn't find Zieglar, but he does find a scary white ghost (a bit like the librarian from the beginning of Ghostbusters) which literally sucks the will to live right out of him, and then the intro credits roll.
After the credit sequence has finished, the plot moves on to Mattie (Kristen Bell), whose boyfriend Josh is nowhere to be found. Mattie asks all her and Josh's immediate friends if they've seen him recently - conveniently introducing them to us, including her best friend Isabelle (Christina Milian) and the comedy porn and dope obsessed guy called 'Stone' (Rick Gonzalez) - but none have. So it's off to Josh's apartment, where she does indeed find Josh but to put it bluntly he looks like shit and is a shadow of his former self. Then, without so much as a gesture, he promptly hangs himself in the next room.
But that's not the end of Josh. The next day, Mattie starts to receive instant messages from Josh, screaming "HELP ME!" Putting two and two together, she assumes that Josh's computer is still plugged in or something and talks Stone into going over and checking his apartment out. He agrees and promptly makes the same journey to Josh's apartment building that Mattie just made 5 minutes ago in the running time, and he pretty much finds the same thing except obviously Josh isn't there this time. And his computer is unplugged, which is weird, but it's still running, and showing some of the weirdest, scary images we've apparently ever seen. Think of a viral clip version of the tape from Ringu and you'll get the idea.
So, what the hell is going on? And why now is Stone feeling really knackered all the time and doesn't want to do anything except sit in his chair? And what of Josh's computer? A few days later when Mattie's still getting messaged by a supposedly dead Josh, she's had enough so quickly traces Josh's computer down to a new attractive male lead in the shape of Dexter (Ian Somerhalder), who's had the machine in the boot of his car for the last few days so really doesn't buy what Mattie's going on about. But then he too becomes intrigued, plugs the machine in and then he too is caught up in this fairly predictable teen horror plot.
But as predictable as Pulse is you have to give it credit for some of its achievements. While the general story arch really just hides behind the standard slasher movie formula, at least the methods involved are suitably techno-savvy enough to keep you interested, and the cyber ghost protagonists are pretty well done. The look and feel of the film in general actually is really accomplished; suitably gloomy with that stark greenish hue that we saw recently on Land of the Dead, with harsh urban backdrops looking so depressing you could almost misconstrue them as post-apocalyptic.
But more so than that the most intriguing thing about Pulse, which perhaps is its saving grace at least critically, is not what's going on with the main characters in the movie but what's going on around them. Establishing shots of apartment blocks and high school hallways have progressively less people in them as the movie ticks along and you'll catch the occasional snippet of a news broadcast in the background recommending people not to use a computer unless absolutely necessary or, nearer the end of the film more specifically, to get out of any area with a cellular reception, taking the current 'no signal' horror cliché to its logical extreme. Considering the predictability of the characters and dialogue, this uncompromisingly downbeat turn of events, and ultimately very dark ending, is a pleasant surprise indeed.
We should mention that Pulse is in fact a remake of a recent low-budget Japanese flick called Kairo, but since we haven't seen that we can't, for once, comment on comparisons between the two, but if it's anything like other similar J-horror remakes this version is probably a glossier affair albeit less scary than the original, but that's purely a guess. Either way, Pulse is a solid little teen horror with a few cool ideas and a neat little ending so is probably worth a rent if you have the time. I'd watch it on your TV as opposed to your PC though as that would be a bit freaky, a bit like watching Ringu on dodgy VHS was back in the late 90s…
Versions UK and US DVDs available (US disc reviewed here) and there doesn't seem to be much in it.
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