By Leroy Douresseaux
August 13, 2006 - 13:56
DIRECTOR: Jim Sonzero
WRITER: Wes Craven and Ray Wright (based upon the screenplay Kairo by Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
PRODUCERS: Michael Leahy & Joel Soisson, Brian Cox, and Anant Singh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Plummer
EDITOR: Robert K. Lambert, A.C.E., Bob Mori, and Kirk M. Morri
Running time: 90 minutes; MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, disturbing images, language, sensuality, and thematic material
Starring: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Milian, Rick Gonzalez, Jonathan Tucker, Samm Levine, Octavia L. Spencer, Zach Grenier, Ron Rifkin, and Brad Dourif
When her boyfriend, Josh (Jonathan Tucker), hangs himself, Mattie Webber (Kristen Bell) is angry with him and with herself for not seeing the signs survivors think people show before committing suicide. When her other friends start acting strange and there is a rash of suicides in this nameless American city, Mattie knows something serious is happening. However, Dexter McCarthy (Ian Somerhalder, “Lost”), a raffish young computer whiz shows Mattie a bizarre website that might answer her questions. Something from another place is sneaking into our world through our wireless technologies. They want what we have and they don’t – life – and no one may be able to close the door. It may be the end of our world, and the beginning of theirs.
Pulse is the latest remake of a Japanese horror flick – this time a 2001 horror art film called Kairo by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Unrelentingly creepy and bizarre, the film commented on how consumer technology (computers, cell phones, portable music devices, etc.) had made a densely populated Japanese city a metropolis full of isolated souls. The new version comments on that through a few visual cues early in the film, which show how young people are so enamored with tech devices. Still, the American version of Pulse is a commodity more than it is film art. The purpose here is to deliver entertainment for teens and early 20-somthings, and the surest way for a movie to do that in this current climate is for that movie to be scary.
To that end, Pulse is awash in earth tones, layered shadows, and inky darkness. It is scary and creepy, but ultimately it is also an empty experience. Oh, yes, it does have plenty of potential, and it delivers quite a few thrills and chills thanks in large part to Pulse’s phantoms from the ether. The characters, however, are flat, and good characters make a horror movie stick with you for a long time. Mattie’s friends and associates are here for the body count, and the audience can’t get to know them enough to care why they die – just how and when they die, as long as it’s fear inducing. Yes, in some cases, the deaths are frightening, but I cared more about being scared than about them dying. I imagine many viewers will care about the victims as much as they care about crumbled paper.
The script – the result of two writers – one of them being a master of the ghostly boogeyman (Wes Craven) makes a few jarring changes to Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original concept. It changes who the monsters are, how they got here, and why they are here. Still, there’s more than enough left over to help you get your scare on, and while this film is mostly forgettable, director Jim Sonzero will send you off with a few goose bumps that won’t go away so easily.
This review originally appeared at http://www.negromancer.com.