Pulse (2006) — Ghosts want their lives back

“They want what they don’t have anymore. They want life.”

Kyle’s rating: Watch it with some kind of context and you’ll dig it (you’ll see!)

Kyle’s review: There is no getting around the fact that Pulse is an atrocious movie. I purchased the Japanese original used (hooray for gamers with disposable income and short attention spans!) but haven’t gotten around to watching it, but I’ve heard enough that makes me think it would be pretty cool. A little on the long side, with a heavy emphasis on alienation and ‘technology isn’t always good,’ certainly, but if there is any form of art that deals effectively with those themes it is Japanese horror films.

But be honest: Any American remake of a Japanese horror film is not going to be good. What scares one culture doesn’t necessarily scare another. And don’t bring up The Grudge because when was the last time you watched that and thought it was good? Or scary? It might be fun, but you can’t really argue it’s a classic of the genre. Sorry!

So it should not be a surprise: Pulse is awful. Bleh. You should rent it, though. Confusingly conflicting advice, yeah?

I’m actually thinking about buying a cheapo used unrated DVD of Pulse at the town music store because, well, I could say that there are some things that work in the film and that it struck me the correct way and so on and so forth. But it’s all because I think Kristen Bell is super, super attractive. Hey now! (and Ian Somerhalder isn’t too shabby, either! Rrragh!)

Maintaining her cool cache as a pop culture “cult” fixture across genres can’t possibly be easy work, but Bell is definitely keepin’ it real. Perhaps importing character from Veronica Mares versus displaying any kind of acting nuance here in Pulse, Bell still manages to sketch an appropriate horror heroine who is confident and self-sufficient enough to avoid death for the most part but still need a bit of an assist and hint of romance from tech guy Somerhalder. I don’t recall the other cast being too impressive, except maybe for being hot. And that’s what modern horror is all about, right?

Oh, my point in reviewing Pulse is that even though this American remake fails (or maybe is totally incapable) of carrying over the cool apocalyptic tone from the Japanese original, there is still an interesting subtext here. Based solely on my incomplete and admittedly hazy recollection of watching it, while staring at that cheap DVD in the horror section and trying to justify buying it, I composed a seemingly genius theory of properly viewing Pulse. And that is as an important exploration of what can happen to you as a college student on a big campus that will effectively eat you up if you don’t make yourself known or visible.

Scary, yes? But it’s a valid theory, since the characters here are college students and it is images of an increasingly empty and darkened college campus that build the overall sense of dread. It may not be a winning theory, since my minimal research hasn’t revealed many other innovators who developed any kind of similar thought on their own, but there is enough here to carry you through whether you want to watch Pulse as an 88-minute little horror jaunt or as a fusion of horror and service announcement about the rigors of being a nameless student.

I actually wonder, if I applied myself, if I could develop this theory to carry into any and all academic endeavors, as I think there is something to be said about the relentless tunnel vision that often descends upon those (not all, but perhaps most) who apply themselves to time-consuming and thought-provoking journeys. Sounds interesting, right? But Pulse’s ultimately slight solidity works against me here, because even if the material is there as good references, I don’t have the energy to really go out on a limb, here. But if you want to, it might be fun!

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