Thursday, January 23, 2014

Film Review: Pulse (2006)

Pulse (Review)
United States/2006
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"I won't lose any sleep at night..."

After her boyfriend abruptly isolates himself and leaves an odd message on her phone, Mattie Webber (Kristen Bell) visits his apartment to find him a mess and disconnected -- he mysteriously commits suicide that same visit. Thereafter, Mattie, and her friends, begin to have odd online encounters -- ghostly figures that begin to invade through technology.

Pulse is a American horror remake of Japan's 2001 Kairo. Pulse follows a very formulaic, by-the-books path. The story mostly follows Mattie as she tries to find out why her boyfriend committed suicide. Her friends are slowly picked off by an unknown entity transmitted through our technology, while Mattie finds a new love interest, Dex. Now, Dex and Mattie team up to find the source of this ghostly virus -- a ghostly virus that leads up to a solid, albeit slightly unfulfilling, ending. I know the concept sounds interesting, but it is executed poorly.

The story fails to buildup its atmosphere and never develops its characters; it's a hollow shell lacking depth, despite its creative concept. The themes and messages feel rushed and distorted; what was once a story of society, loneliness, and unhealthy technology dependence is now a story of... nothing; some of the scenes are offensively overwhelming, lacking necessary subtly, like "look, everyone is using their phones and playing videos games or something... that's what the original film was about, right? Right?"

As far as its horror elements, Pulse uses some suspense and jump-scares to conjure its terror, as well as some disturbing visuals. Due to the lack of atmosphere development, its dark, gritty style is useless and ineffective. The suspense is very light when used properly; usually, it fails to create tense moments. When the suspense does work, it leads up to some solid jump-scares. The jump-scares are occasionally jolting, but usually predictable. The disturbing visuals consist of suicides -- they're not very graphic, but they can be chilling. I won't lose any sleep at night, and I doubt most of you will either.

The acting ranges from mediocre to bad. Kristen Bell is the lead, and she's very bland -- usually underwhelming or overacting, rarely hitting her mark. Along with their incredibly hollow characters, the rest of the cast doesn't have much to work with; their performances are bland and misguided because they have no identity -- you can blame the sloppy writing for this. The special effects are great, they usually blend well with the rest of the film and compliment the gritty style, but, with a severe lack of scares, they tend to be useless. The music usually works with the film, but it is equally ill-fitted. Jim Sonzero directs this film, although there isn't much direction; surprisingly, Wes Craven wrote this film, along with Ray Wright, and it comes off as sloppy and generic.

Overall, Pulse is a bad horror film. The concept is creative and interesting, despite being a remake, but the scares are minimal, the story is cliché, the characters and themes are poorly presented and underdeveloped, and the acting is bad. I'm not someone who hates remakes (I liked The Grudge and The Eye), so this isn't baseless or biased, Pulse is simply a bad film.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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