How funny that “Pulse,” which is all about modern technology, displays so little common sense about how people actually use it. The film is full of college students who have old-fashioned desktop answering machines, when in real life that demographic uses voice mail if they use a landline at all, and plenty of college students only have cell phones. In one scene, a girl manually dials her boyfriend’s phone number on her cell, rather than using speed dial. Are we to believe she never saved his number on her phone? I question whether the typical college student even KNOWS her friends’ phone numbers.
Yeah, yeah, the movie is incompetent in other ways too, but I chose to fixate on the gadget-related nonsense. What else was I going to think about? The plot? You mean the one where a dead college student sends instant messages from beyond the grave, and where his grieving friends keep seeing suicide montages broadcast over their DSL lines, whereupon they begin to act strangely themselves? THAT plot? No thank you. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather focus on the characters’ cell phone usage.
Sigh. Anyway. The dead kid is named Josh (Jonathan Tucker) and his girlfriend was Mattie (Kristen Bell), both students at some university or other. We see Josh in the film’s prologue, skulking around the library looking for a guy named Zieglar but instead finding a ghoulish apparition that sucks the life force out of him (or something).
After Josh’s eventual death, Mattie and his other friends Izzy (Christina Milian), Stone (Rick Gonzalez) and Tim (Samm Levine) start getting messages from him. Mattie assumes whoever inherited Josh’s computer is logging in as him. But the new owner, a scrubby techie named Dexter (Ian Somerhalder), HASN’T EVEN PLUGGED THE COMPUTER IN. So how has Josh been communicating with everyone? THE DEVIL, that’s how.
There’s some kind of timeless evil, and it was unleashed, and it infects you through phones and computers, and sometimes it makes you commit suicide and sometimes it just kills you itself, and I bet this movie was better when it was Japanese. This remake, written by the original’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa and American horror commodity Wes Craven and directed by Jim Sonzero, is maddeningly vague about its intentions. There is a general creepiness — lights flickering, strange noises, the weather is always overcast (even indoors, it seems), etc. — rather than a specific threat. But if we don’t know what we’re supposed to be scared of, we’re not going to be scared. As usual, this cheaply made PG-13 horror flick is all atmosphere and no horror.
D (1 hr., 30 min.; )