Pulse: Unrated – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Jim Sonzero

Kristen Bell …. Mattie Webber
Ian Somerhalder …. Dexter McCarthy
Christina Milian …. Isabell Fuentes
Rick Gonzalez …. Stone
Jonathan Tucker …. Josh Ockmann
Samm Levine …. Tim Steinberg

The Movie:

When will the madness stop? Four years after Gore Verbinski had a hit with 2002’s The Ring, American studios are still pumping out remakes of Japanese Horror films. Since that time, Verbinski’s remake of Ringu also remains the only American redo to come close to its source material in scares, but still the studios keep trying. Next up on the chopping block is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 picture Kairo, in the form of the Jim Sonzero directorial debut, Pulse.

The story concerns Mattie Weber (Kristen Bell), a college student growing increasingly distant from her boyfriend, Josh (Jonathan Tucker). He hasn’t talked to her in weeks and she’s growing increasingly worried, until one night she receives a cryptic message on her answering machine. Going to his apartment to investigate, she finds Jos’s apartment in shambles and before she can discover what’s happening to him, he commits suicide in front of her. To make matters worse, Josh seems to have been part of an epidemic of suicides, as an alarming number of people start throwing themselves off of buildings or walking in front of busses and the like. Turns out, the reasons for the epidemic are supernatural in nature and only Mattie can try and stop the carnage.

While this amount of death early on in a film should bring plenty of scares and a high degree of creepiness, the whole thing comes off as perfunctory. Everything from the film’s look to its dialogue never really feels real in any sense of the word. The film’s production took place in Romania, which could account for a degree of isolation in the film’s tone, but it also adds to the feeling of artificiality. The whole experience is so drab and unpleasant that any pleasure that could possibly be had is washed away in a sea of moody cinematography, ho-hum special effects, and poorly conceived performances.

With Kairo, Kurosawa was able to create a piece about how we can’t connect to each other due to an over reliance on technology. We talk so much through cell phones, PDA’s, instant messaging and other devices that human contact has become obsolete. While Pulse pays lip service to this theme, its more concerned with cheap scares and CGI ghosts.

It doesn’t help that Pulse’s characters are so one dimensional that we don’t care whether they live or die. Kristen Bell may get great notices on Veronica Mars, but the film makers leave her out to dry here. Throughout this film’s entire running time, we get no feel for these characters whatsoever, so any danger they’re in becomes more of an exercise that any kind of real threat that would actually draw us into this picture. We know Mattie has a Mother that won’t return her calls and a psychiatrist that doesn’t believe her when she says she’s seeing crazy things happening, and that’s about it. All other characters are so thin that they’re not even worth going into.

Had Pulse been the first Japanese/American Horror crossover, it may have been able to be more resonant. As it is, we’ve seen such a bad string of these films that by now we just don’t care. Silly and sloppy Pulse brings with it more laughs than scares, and none of those are intentional. If we’re lucky, this will mark the end of this line and Horror films can start being creative again, but don’t count on it.

The DVD:

The Video
The print on this looks fine. The picture is clear and there doesn’t seem to be any debris. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1

The Audio
The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also good. There’s a good balance throughout so there’s no need to constantly change the volume when it comes to soundtrack and dialogue.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailer

Audio Commentary with Director Jim Sonzero – Listening to this commentary track, you would think that Pulse was a pretty good movie. Sonzero talks at length about the movie’s motifs and the difficulties with shooting in Romania. None of this really makes you like the film any better.

Deleted and Additional Scenes – You get 12 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes as well as an alternate ending.

Creating the Fear: Making Pulse – This is a puff piece about the making of the movie. I was surprised as to just how much CGI was actually used in the film from the behind the scenes footage.

The Visual Effects of Pulse – This goes into some depth about the CGI used in the film, and how complicated some of the shots were.
Pulse and the Paranormal – Going about 4 minutes, this Featurette is actually the most interesting of the whole disc. The guys from Sci-Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters and other experts talk about the wonders of supernatural phenomena and how technology has aided in being able to see these ghosts.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Pulse: Unrated
(OUT OF 10)






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