(director: Jim Sonzero; screenwriters: story of Kairo by Kiyoshi Kurosawa/Wes Craven/Ray Wright; cinematographer: Mark Plummer; editors: Marc Jakubowicz/Robert K. Lambert/Bob Mori/Kirk M. Morri; music: Elia Cmiral; cast: Kristen Bell (Mattie Webber), Ian Somerhalder (Dexter McCarthy), Christina Milian (Isabell Fuentes), Rick Gonzalez (Stone), Kel O’Neill (Douglas Zieglar), Jonathan Tucker (Josh), Samm Levine (Tim), Octavia L. Spencer (Landlady), Ron Rifkin (Dr. Waterson); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Brian Cox/Anant Singh; Dimension Films; 2006)
“It was hard to find the pulse in this tame remake.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Pulse is a poor sister remake of the Japanese film Kairo written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, acclaimed by some as an apocalyptic horror classic (no comment, I didn’t see it). As scripted by Wes Craven and Ray Wright, it plays out as a ghost story that comes with bleak visuals (shot in cold steely blues and in dark shadowy unpleasant shades) and a gloomy tale about the ultimate dangers of cyberspace (there’s an uncontrollable evil force that connects with everything and takes away the will to live from all those it comes into contact with). The acting is close to the pits, the directing by Jim Sonzero (“War of the Angels”) leaves a lot to be desired and the creepy uninspiring story provides hardly any scares and throws around a litany of techie terms to only disavow the Internet as a disease waiting to happen. It was hard to find the pulse in this tame remake.

A dullish group of college student teens Mattie (Kristen Bell), Isabell (Christina Milian), Stone (Rick Gonzalez) and Tim (Samm Levine) hang together clinging to their cell phones and computers as their way of digging each other. Their characters are never developed beyond the cardboard stage, so when bad things start to happen to them it has no emotional meaning. When Mattie comes over to her sometime boyfriend Josh’s (Jonathan Tucker) pad, worried that she’s lost contact with him, he acts strangely possessed going on about a computer virus. The place is a pig sty, as the film’s biggest scares are reserved for how messy it is as everywhere Mattie looks she finds scrawny or unusual animals. Then Josh shocks her by suddenly committing suicide by hanging himself without giving a hint of his intentions. After Josh’s death his computer is unplugged, but the teens still get text messages from him asking for help. Josh’s landlady sold his computer to Dexter McCarthy (Ian Somerhalder), who is either a student or just a computer whiz. The somewhat older and more mature lad than the others, finds from viewing his new computer that Josh was a hacker who got into a site that unleashed otherworldly forces that took over his mind and before he could come up with a virus to stop it he was overtaken. Josh did mail his crew red utility tape to keep out the ghosts, who are able to penetrate everywhere but through this masking tape (it’s not made clear the significance of the color being red, but what’s clearly established is that when someone as hip as Josh says use red–he should not be questioned). Soon nerdy Tim, unappealing scam artist Stone and nice assed but not too swift Isabell get possessed by these supernaturals, and that fortunately leaves the only two actors in the film who have the slightest appeal–Kristen and Ian. They team up in a humorless, sexless adventure to locate Josh’s hacker friend Ziegler (Kel O’Neill) in Columbus, Ohio, and see if they can work together to put an end to this nonsense and save the world.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

But it’s not easy to save the world, so the duo settles for driving far away from the reaches of the runaway wireless technology (where there’s no signal), and are glad they survived, found each other and plan on returning some day to start over (which I hope doesn’t mean a sequel is in the works).

Pulse Poster