Review: Pulse

Pulse, playing now in theaters, is an oddity of a horror movie. It is a movie that supposedly takes place in Ohio but was actually shot in Romania. It is a movie that has many of the elements of horror without actually invoking much of that horrific feeling. It has an interesting premise that will likely keep you from falling asleep but will probably not cause you to suspend disbelief. It has a mixture of largely unknown and very young actors who can act decently but do not develop enough character for you care whether they live or die. It mixes occasionally neat special effects with often annoying, fast-paced youth dialog that is just a bit too trendy to sound real.

The story takes place on a college campus so old that if it were vine covered it would look new. It looks decrepit, which makes sense for a film shot in Romania. Doubtless, there are many decrepit and ugly buildings there left over from the Cold War. It must not have cost much to rent these drab and grey Cold War relics. Doubtless too, the cost of shooting movies is likely much cheaper in Romania than in Hollywood. Clearly not much money was spent on sets. In fact, I am willing to bet there were no sets constructed for this movie at all. I believe the interior shots were filmed entirely inside these Cold War block apartment buildings. The student housing on this campus is one nasty roach motel. Along with the roaches are students who look and smell just as bad. Apparently, the guys at this campus never learned to shave properly. Neither gender apparently has learned how to pick up after themselves. Nor have they learned the survival skill of throwing away old milk cartons in the refrigerator. All this ugliness is before the creatures from the electromagnetic spectrum arrive. They find many of their victims through cell phones and computers, which they use as conduits to infect you and then kill you. However, apparently they can also come in through cracks under the doors and through the windows. No crack is too small. Only red electrical tape seems to keep them out.

Only a few successfully fight off these — what are they again? I do not believe they were ever given names. Perhaps like Lord Voldemort they are “they who shall not be named”. These students must have got hold of the duct tape before there was a run on it. Gradually though it is not just these geeky students who become infected. (Their bodies turn to charcoal imprints and their spirit seems to get sucked into some weird band on the electromagnetic spectrum.) It is virtually everyone on the planet. The city seems to turn into a ghost town overnight, but the students are too addle brained or busy putting up duct tape to spend much time watching CNN. Your only hope of survival it to get away quickly before you become infected. You must go so far away that your cell phone will not work. (Presumably though, these creatures cannot attack through the ordinary AM band, since near the end we hear civil defense on the radio providing instructions on where the safe spectrum-free areas are.) Even if you make it out so far where there is no cell phone coverage (is there such a place left in Ohio?), do not turn on your computer or use any electrical device. These soul suckers from the electromagnetic spectrum will get you if you do. If you want to survive in this brave new world, be like the Amish.

It may be that I am simply too old for this movie. This movie is clearly targeting teens and young adults. It tries to be cool. Everyone has cell phones and computers. They are constantly text messaging each other. You cannot find even a crease on their remarkably youthful faces. At least the guys look suitably grungy. While filmed in color, the movie is deliberately shot in a dark drab. The dialog is more cyberspeak than English.

Is the movie a waste of your time? I guess it depends on what you want out of a movie. Were I in my teens, this would probably be a nifty teen date movie. I could likely identify with this tight knit group of students, particularly if I were hip enough to spend my day sending friends text messages on my cell phones or chatting with them on IM. (When do they find time to study with all the IMing and text messaging?) The special effects may not be out of this world, but they are decent. Moreover, the actors are suitably scared at the appropriate moments. I just could not identify with them. I think I am too old. I consider myself very technologically savvy. I can program in PHP, swim in RSS, know what spread spectrum means and can distinguish a T-1 line from DSL. I have, however, some sophistication. I have something more than an ability to gabber in technogeek. Nor do I emulate our president with short, punchy sentences that do not always carry a coherent thought. My sentences tend to be coherent and full of adjectives. The dialog in this movie is a tad too hip to be real. If the youth of today do talk like this, heaven help us.

The film does have a certain film noir though. Moreover, it is competently directed. The director Jim Sonzero probably did about the best he could with the available low rent actors, the mediocre script and the limited special effects budget. Apparently, although it is a Wes Craven film, Wes bailed out early. Maybe he realized even he could not make this turd of a script blossom.

Oddly, my wife loved the movie. So it may be that I am all wet with my review. IMDB though agrees with me. Its reviewers give it 3.8 out of 10 stars. Pulse is not a bad movie. It is not bad like that recent dreck of a movie Stay Alive, for example. Nevertheless, it is certainly not a good movie. It is simply a forgettable movie, and a cheaply made one at that. It is a B film with pretensions of being something a bit more stylish than it actually is. If you are curious enough to see it, then save your money for the matinee. That way you will feel less ripped off if you do not like it.

If you can still find it, go see Lady in the Water instead. This is suitably creepy, much more entertaining and far more horrifying. (This is spite of the fact that neither movie is actually gory.)

Pulse gets 2.3 on my 4.0 scale. My pulse never went away, but, like the movie, it certainly never soared.

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