The Pulse Trilogy
Pulse (December 21/06)
Based on the Japanese scarefest of the same name, Pulse revolves around the chaos that ensues after a hapless nerd inadvertently unleashes an army of demons onto the world - with intrepid college student Mattie Webber (Kristen Bell) left to somehow stop the deadly invasion. Director Jim Sonzero - along with cinematographer Mark Plummer - has infused the movie with precisely the sort of deep-blue metallic sheen that seems to accompany most contemporary horror flicks, with the filmmaker likewise unwilling (or unable) to place his own distinct stamp on the proceedings. That Pulse has been designed to appeal primarily to younger viewers couldn't possibly be more apparent, as evidenced by the teen-friendly cast (Christina Milian's performance is almost offensively awful) and inclusion of "hip" songs on the film's soundtrack. The baffling storyline certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the almost total lack of violence (there's one nifty sequence in which a victim falls off a tower, but that's about the extent of it). It's too bad, really, as the film does possess a fairly interesting premise and an unusually bleak vibe (the requisite happy ending smacks of studio interference, though).
Incoherent and interminable, Pulse 2 boasts an atmosphere of unprecedented awfulness that effectively casts its nigh unwatchable predecessor in a slightly better light - as the movie consistently comes off as a slapdash, downright amateurish endeavor that'll force even the most ardent horror buff to throw their arms up in frustration. Pulse 2 - which follows Jamie Bamber's Stephen as he attempts to flee the increasingly perilous confines of a ghost-ridden city with his young daughter (Karley Scott Collins' Justine) - has been hard-wired with a low-rent sensibility that pervades its every aspect, with filmmaker Joel Soisson's head-scratching decision to primarily shoot against a green screen standing as the proceedings' most egregious failing. The obvious deficiencies within the budget subsequently couldn't possibly be more obvious, and it's certainly not surprising to note that there's never a moment at which the viewer is able to overlook the lack of tangible sets (ie this makes Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow look like a gritty Cassavetes flick). The flatter-than-flat visuals - coupled with an unconscionably thin storyline - ensures that the whole thing inevitably feels like it was conceived, shot, and edited over a weekend, with the end result an epically terrible piece of work that hopefully marks the nadir of the series.
An obvious improvement over its immediate predecessor, Pulse 3 kicks off with a surprisingly engaging prologue that ultimately stands as the highlight of the entire series. Set during the first days of the deadly outbreak, the opening follows Rider Strong's Adam as he communicates with his Middle Eastern girlfriend over the internet - although, as expected, it's not long before their relationship goes horribly awry as a result of the technological plague. The remainder of the film, which transpires seven years after the events of Pulse 2, details Justine's (Brittany Finamore, picking up where Karley Scott Collins left off) efforts at safely traveling from her refugee camp to the heart of an abandoned city, where she is to meet the mysterious man that she surreptitiously met over the internet. Writer/director Joel Soisson has smartly eschewed Pulse 2's relentless use of green-screen gimmickry in favor of shooting the majority of Pulse 3 on actual locations, which proves effective at instantly setting the movie apart from its appalling antecedent - as that endeavor often felt more like a pretentious film-school experiment than a fully-realized endeavor. As one might've anticipated, however, the absorbing intro inevitably does give way to a decidedly less-than-enthralling stretch revolving around Justine's increasingly tedious journey through the perilous countryside - with the inclusion of a few eye-rollingly silly encounters undoubtedly testing one's patience (ie an oddball riff on Black Snake Moan in which Justine finds herself chained to an older black man's radiator). The underwhelming finale only cements Pulse 3's downfall, although - to be fair - it's worth noting that Finamore delivers a stirring performance that's certainly a cut above the majority of her direct-to-video horror contemporaries.