“Gaze too long into the abyss and the abyss gazes back at you…”
The original Pulse film was a remake of an Asian horror film, part of the recent trend of converting many of these titles into American retellings. That trend appears to also include strong warnings against technology and linking ghostly apparitions with some form of technology, from video tapes to cell phones. I’m pretty sure they’re right about the cell phones. In Pulse it was pretty much all technology that could act as a conduit for the restless dead to come to the world of the living. The internet and such access ports as laptops became the real killers. The second film brought us the complete breakdown of society, and now 7 years from that point we have Pulse 3. By now what remains of humanity lives in scattered rural areas. The cities have been abandoned, left to the dead. Technology is now the stuff of evil in the almost religious culture that has developed in the remaining people. If you haven’t seen either of the earlier films you might be a little lost, but not so much that you can’t get into this film. The problem is that this film, like its previous incarnations, isn’t good enough for you to want to get into. In case you need to know here are some basics: Ghosts can’t pass red barriers. Something in that wavelength traps them. They are all restless and drain the life force from anyone they encounter. They travel through electronic equipment. Mostly they appear to inhabit the internet.
It’s been 7 years since we last visited this world. Justine (Finamore), a child in the second film, is now a teenager who pretty much hates her life. She has been communicating with someone or something over her forbidden laptop. She is convinced that the stories about the abandoned cities might not be true, so she sets out to find out for herself. Along the way she is captured by a man who seeks to communicate with his long dead wife, who apparently committed suicide. He sees Justine’s computer as his chance. Of course, it all ends rather badly, and Justine is left to continue her journey. Once in the city she encounters the “hemi” guy from those truck advertisements. He’s been experimenting with ways to stop the spirits and uses Justine in an experiment. Justine finally discovers her friend and uses a special program they hope will restore him completely to life in corporeal form. She finally uncovers the truth, but to paraphrase Jack, she can’t handle the truth. Don’t ask me what happens next. I’ve seen it twice now and I still don’t understand. I guess I’ll find out in Pulse 4.
The first problem I have here is that the entire film was pretty much lensed in front of a green screen. I know there are reasons and budget constraints to make that often necessary, but here it’s almost all in front of green screen. Justine is standing in the middle of a street, and it’s green screen. The obvious look takes me pretty far out of the experience of the film. It is overused to the point of making an artistic statement here. If you can’t afford to shoot in the street, just how good of a CG image can you get with less money than that? Everyone in the film is acting almost as if in a funk. I think it might have more than a little bit to do with the fact they have very little physical stimulation to act or react to. We’re not talking the best actors in the business to begin with, but I’m afraid they were never really given a chance to provide real portrayals here. All of it feels like some wacked out dream and never takes on any sense of realism. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t bring myself to care about anything that happened in this film.
Pulse 3 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is a direct to video effort and it shows. Because of the dark lighting and overuse of green screen, the video presentation looks hokey throughout. There isn’t anything bright to show off color. Sometimes the reds which hold off the spirits stand out, but otherwise all of the colors tend to run together. Everything is dark and uninteresting in its color schemes. Black levels aren’t really that good, which is a disaster for this film. It is the worst visually in the series.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is in all practicality a little less than a stereo presentation. It almost completely dominates the center speaker. That means clear dialog, but everybody mumbles somewhat. There is little in any other kinds of sounds at all. You would expect the apparitions could provide some nice ambient atmosphere, but you would be mistaken. Very dull.
There is an Audio Commentary with some cast and crew, but they spend a lot of time crying poverty with the budget. It sounds like they were on the verge of taking a sharpie and a piece of cardboard out to the highway off ramps with a sign that says: “Will film a movie for food”.
Making Of Pulse 3: This is just an 8 minute feature looking at a couple of the gore effects. Not really anything to see here. Watch a one string guitarist pound away…until he breaks his one string that is. This feature is more of a mess than the film.
The Pulse series was pretty much finished after the first film. Like the story’s restless spirits, this movie just didn’t know it was dead. You won’t have to seal yourself in a room covered with red masking tape or unplug your electronic devices to escape this terror, however. Just leave it on the shelf and keep on walking. The idea was actually a pretty clever one. “Of course there’s a problem with implementation.”