Pulse (2006 Test Screening)

Starring Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Milian

Directed by Jim Sonzero

On the surface Pulse appears to be just another remake of an Asian horror film. With its leads being pulled straight from prime time TV shows and virtual unknowns credited for its direction and writing, the film has a lot of warning flags. Being a Dimension film doesn’t help much either. Surprisingly though, the cast is actually decent. The film is not poorly acted by any means, which is not to say we have Oscar winning performances here, but you won’t feel like you’re watching cardboard cutouts delivering dialogue as flat as, well, cardboard. Ultimately the weakest part of the film is the pacing.

Pulse is yet another ghost story. Before you write it off though, you should know that there are no twitching long-haired ghosts here, nor is there any supremely hard to buy backstory that tries to be the Great Expectations of horror. The storyline of this film can’t really be called “original,” but it is refreshing nonetheless. Hollywood has laid its fingers into anything Ring-esque and remade several Asian titles that are very similar in concept and imagery. That Pulse has little in common with those types of ghost stories makes it more appealing even though the gist of the concept is nothing new. There are no cursed videotapes, websites, or psychic children in this movie. While the new Pulse does have some similar elements to recent Asian inspired remakes, it still manages to set itself apart from them.

The plot revolves around several college students, a suicide, and a computer virus. After the suicide of her friend Josh, Mattie (Bell) and her friends are plagued by instant messages from his computer. They dismiss it as some kind of glitch or virus, but when Mattie finally goes back to turn Josh’s computer off, she finds that it’s no longer at his apartment; even stranger it hasn’t been plugged in for days. One by one Mattie and her friends begin to realize that there’s more to Josh’s death than an apparent suicide.

The beginning is somewhat slow and ineffective with little character development and even fewer scares. However, maybe it will be re-cut as this was a test screening and it was still a little rough. That being said, Pulse overall never achieves the kind of spooky feeling it’s going for. Hopefully whatever changes they make will give it that needed boost. There are several rather creepy parts that make the film worthwhile regardless of the pacing, but those don’t even hit until the last half of the film.

Kristen Bell is a decent lead even though she comes off as a cross between Naomi Watts and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Former “Lost” star Ian Somerhalder does a very convincing job with his role as well, but don’t expect too much from the supporting cast; there’s not much interaction between them. The film’s focus is more on Bell, Somerhalder, and the virus than on Bell and her friends. To the film’s credit though it’s fairly straightforward, and the lack of dynamic interaction and developed backstories won’t be missed. Pulse doesn’t try to tie every person, place, or thing into a clever plot, so the fact that the supporting cast makes sparse appearances isn’t a detriment to the film in a noticeable way.

Hard-core horror fans may not love this movie, but Pulse certainly has potential to entertain. The crowd present seemed to enjoy it with less of a critical eye than I viewed it with, but hopefully that doesn’t mean it will go to print without any changes made. While enjoyable, the new Pulse was somewhat tame compared to previous remakes of its ilk.

3 out of 5
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Jon Condit

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