31 Screams in October, Vol. 3, #20: Pulse (2006)

Posted: October 21, 2016 in Movie Review
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20. Pulse (2006)

Director: Jim Sonzero

Starring: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Millian, Rick Gonzalez

We all have certain kinds of movies that just don’t work for us, no matter how hard we might try. Among the horror genre, mine is ghost stories. The ones where the ghosts live in inanimate objects fall under a particular level of scrutiny. Japanese favorites like “The Ring” and their Americanized remakes have to work extra hard to impress me. Only one has ever succeeded. That one (which we’ll get to) is not 2006’s “Pulse,” itself a remake of a 2001 Japanese film.

Mattie Webber (Kristen Bell) is growing concerned because it’s not like her boyfriend Josh to just drop off the face of the Earth as he seems to have done for the past few days. Her friends are making noises like she’s been ditched, but Mattie isn’t buying it. She finds him in his apartment, days later, doing nothing. His cat hasn’t been fed in quite a while, and the apartment itself is in disarray. Josh appears to have no energy, as though the life has been sucked out of him. Without much warning, Josh hangs himself with an Ethernet cable.

Some time following Josh’s death, Mattie and her friends all receive the same “HELP ME!” message purporting to come from Josh. Surely, this must be some sort of computer virus, they think. Believing that Josh’s computer is still turned on, Mattie returns to his apartment to shut it down. In fact, the computer has been illegally sold. The buyer, a man named Dexter (Ian Somerhalder), still has it in the trunk of his car and hasn’t bothered to turn it on yet. Mattie receives a package in the mail from Josh, sent two days before he killed himself.  Inside are rolls of red tape, and an attached message explaining that… somehow… it keeps “them” out. “They” are ghosts, but exactly why the red tape is so effective against them is never explained, not even vaguely. It just is.

Dexter finds video messages which Josh had been sending to a guy named Ziegler. He shows them to Mattie. They detail how Josh had somehow created a computer virus which acted as a gateway for the ghosts to cross into our world. While you’re absorbing that absurd little nugget, Josh also explains that he thinks he’s created the perfect anti-virus. Dexter and Mattie find the memory stick containing the anti-virus and go looking for Ziegler. By this time, Ziegler is completely paranoid, having covered every square inch of his apartment in red tape and hiding in his closet. He’s well within reason to be paranoid. All around him people are either vanishing into a pile of ash or are committing suicide. He tells Dexter and Mattie where to find the main server in the basement of the apartment complex.

The anti-virus is uploaded, and it appears to work as Josh hoped it would. However, the system then reboots and the ghosts keep coming. Effectively, everything since the discovery of the memory stick has been a complete waste of our time. The paranormal invasion is complete and total, spanning the entire globe. The only thing left for Dexter and Mattie to do is to find a corner of the United States which has no Internet or cell phone coverage, as that’s the only way for the ghosts to get to you.

Despite casting the always adorable Kristen Bell in the lead role, “Pulse” is a cliched, boring mess of a movie. Ghosts in the Internet is an interesting, if bizarre concept. It’s a shame it’s not handled better. “Pulse” gets points for the cameo from Brad Dourif as the eccentric, “the end is nigh” character, but little else redeems it. Perhaps if they’d concentrated a little less on the visuals and focused their time and energy into making us care about the characters and giving us a much better understanding of just what the hell is going on and why, then maybe… just maybe… “Pulse” might have been onto something.

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