Dimension Films // 2008 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // October 10th, 2008
The infection has spread.
Bearing little resemblance to the original Pulse, itself a pale imitation of the far superior J-Horror Kairo, Pulse 2 is an unmitigated disaster. And while I have little love for the Kristen Bell starring original, that film at least showed a certain level of competence on behalf of the cast and crew. The story was coherent, the acting passable, and in the final moments when a plane descends over a devastated city, the movie created some memorable imagery (albeit taken directly from Kairo). Pulse 2 lacks even the basic merits of its predecessor.
Picking up some years after the first film, we find a world on the edge of devastation. With the dead finding a route to our world using computer networks and cell phones, survivors are forced to live in dead zones where connection to networks is impossible. Following the disappearance of their daughter, Stephen (Jamie Bamber) and Michelle (Georgina Rylance) set out separately to find her, but must risk a journey through the ghost-ridden city to do so.
Writer/director Joel Soisson has been attached, in some capacity, to a number of low-budget movies over the years. Some of these have been fun romps that belie their B-movie roots, such as Feast and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge. On the other hand, Soisson has also gave birth to the likes of Dracula 3: Legacy and Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence. Granted full control of Pulse 2, Soisson either lacked the skill or conviction to make anything worthwhile. The story moves in fits and starts, but never flows satisfactorily. While the premise of telling the story from two perspectives -- with one participant being alive and the other dead -- is intriguing, there is so little imagination in the screenplay that any interest is quickly lost. Even worse, Soisson seems incapable of instilling the film with any atmosphere whatsoever. Considering the story is set in a world where cities are deserted but for the ghosts of the deceased, there's an alarming lack of dread created.
Visually, Pulse 2 is borderline repulsive. Scratch that, it's totally repulsive. To say the film is poorly lit is a massive understatement. Whether it be an indoor or outdoor scene, Pulse 2 retains the look of something a couple of teenagers might knock up with their dad's video camera in the backyard. To make matters worse, much of the movie is shot against a green screen, with the backgrounds added later. Why this decision was made is baffling; it only helps make the movie look cheap and tacky. One sequence, early on, features a woman sitting in a chair on her porch. With the exception of the actor and the chair, everything is added digitally. The effect is reminiscent of the Wing Commander PC games, where Mark Hamill or Brian Blessed would appear in cut scenes against CGI backgrounds.
Even by direct-to-DVD standards, the acting in Pulse 2 is poor. I must admit to not being familiar with any of the actors on show, but their work here hardly has me scrambling to check out their respective résumés. Not even the delightfully named Boti Bliss, who provides the obligatory topless shot, can save this one.
As much as I find the visuals off-putting, there's no denying the DVD contains a decent transfer with a reasonably clean image. Unfortunately, this only serves to expose the numerous flaws in the film's stylistic approach. The 5.1 soundtrack is technically commendable, lacking any real misgivings, but it never really utilises the rear speakers enough and fails to help create a foreboding atmosphere.
Extras are limited to a couple of deleted scenes (which reveal the wide use of green screen effects), and a commentary that, though loaded with contributors, has very little interesting to say.
I really struggle to understand how anybody could see the sense in funding a movie this poor. Surely, the warning signs were there from the start. If people really wanted to throw a few million dollars away, there are many worthy causes out there. I mean, nobody expects this movie to actually make money. Do they?
Avoid Pulse 2 at all costs. It may be too late to stop Pulse 3 (a sneak peek at which is included on the disc), but with any luck we can ensure a fourth instalment never comes to pass.
Guilty...but you knew that already, didn't you?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Feature Commentary by the Filmmakers
* Deleted Scene
* DVD Verdict audio interview with Jamie Bamber