Pulse is dark.
No, not morbid, but literally dark. As in you can’t see a damned thing. I mention this because it is the only thing you will remember about the movie. How damned ugly it looks and how processings its 24 frames per second physically strains your retina.
The dominating black levels have zero function. They hide nothing because the film has nothing to offer. Jim Sonzero managed a piss poor remake of a bit of J-Horror that could have certainly been improved upon. He made it a pain to take in and even more of a test to endure to the end. But the crowning achievement is that Sonzero extracted, with almost surgical precision, the one thing that should have been a sure bet: Kristin Bell’s talent.
This latter fact is not nearly as obvious unless you are aware of the acting chops the amazing Kristin Bell sports. Of course, I am referring to "Veronica Mars". The range and energy she brings to that role is huge. She tries in Pulse, she really does, but what she is given to try with is next to nothing. Granted she was also probably lost on the set since the whole production couldn’t afford more than one light bulb.
My biggest complaint with the original Kairo also happened to go without repair here. The plot is absurdly jumbled together. Ghosts spread via a computer virus that replicates across some bandwidth, radio wave or other techno buzz word that the spirit world apparently surfs the web on. The first ‘victim’, Josh, "hacks" this "virus" off of some mysterious server somewhere. He then kills himself, throwing all his friends into a tizzy once he starts sending them all IMs from beyond the grave.
The film editing is horrid. Jagged and jarring barely begin to cover it. The effects are alright, but that is also largely due to an inability to see the effects as a whole. The ghosts themselves are boring. Save for a cameo by the dancing woman from the original, they’re all some bald, old man who isn’t scary at all.
Wait a second, did I just stumble on to Pulse’s most subversive commentary? That even in death the only people who populate cyber space are naked, old men who want to grope hot, young, white girls? I’d be impressed if only that were intentional. But it wasn’t. It is just one of many things that’ll cause you to chuckle while watching.
On the nerd front the movie hits all the same lazy notes as other tech oriented Hollywooders (here is looking at you, Stay Alive). The slang is wrong, the tech behavior (even before its haunting) never matches the real world. I even burst into laughter when, for the second time, it was mentioned that Josh, the l33t h4x0r, was stockpiling computer viruses in some power trip. I’ve already forgotten the exact phrasing of the line, but it was something along the lines of "He wasn’t power tripping on viruses!", as if computer viruses were a new designer drug.
There is no reason to recommend Pulse. I confess to not having seen them all, but from my experience it is certainly the least scary of the PG-13 cash cows – a true accomplishment. Others at least contain moments of inspiration. The only moments of inspiration here are the rare instances where you can actually tell what color an actor’s skin tone really is.
It is seriously that fugly.