In 2001 director Kiyoshi Kurosawa brought us the technological apocalypse horror film Kairo. With the penchant for importing Japanese horror, it was only a matter of time before it made its way to the Hollywood remake machine. 2006 brought us that remake under the translated title Pulse.
I liked that film. I loved how it took this epic tale of death leading towards unending sorrow and terror and brought it to a personal level (probably necessitated by budget), allowing us to become a bit more closely involved with the characters. Now we are faced with a sequel that by most accounts is neither needed nor wanted. Despite that fact, the film is here and I actually like it.
As Pulse ended we saw the ghostly "virus" spreading outward, slowly expanding further and further, killing as it went. The virus concerned ghosts coming through electronic signals, such as WiFi and cell phone signals. The ghosts would appear, touch the living, thus infecting them with a disease that kills in short order. Well, that is what happened if it got that far as many victims would go crazy and kill themselves long before it came to that.
Pulse 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first film. I have heard it is supposed to be the next day, but there are elements that suggest it has been a longer period of time since the initial outbreak. The cities have been essentially abandoned. With all of the WiFi and cell coverage towers it is virtually impossible to get away from the shimmery phantoms. I guess no one thought to pull the plug on the power. Survivors clustered in villages and refugee camps far from the city limits, in the wilderness where electronic signals could not reach.
With that setup, we can get into the story that is, once again, a personal one told within the backdrop of a much more epic story. It is the story of a love between a father and daughter, as well as between mother and daughter and their struggle with each other. The monkey wrench in the thing is that the mother is dead. Oops, you weren't supposed to know that yet. I guess it really doesn't matter, you will figure it out soon enough. The biggest problem with this story is that it doesn't navigate the fine line between telling too much and giving away too little all that well, as there are missed opportunities to do a better job of developing this new world.
The story begins with a woman, Michelle (Georgina Rylance), waking to discover her daughter Justine (Karley Scott Collins) is missing. She heads out to hunt for her daughter in a dangerous new world. She also happens to be separated from her husband Stephen, played by Battlestar Galactica's Jamie Bamber. He is residing in a cabin community away from the city with his new girlfriend, the fiery Marta (Boti Bliss). Upon learning of his daughter's disappearance (how did he find out again?), he heads into the city to mount his own search.
Stephen quickly finds her and returns to the gated community in the woods. All seems to be going well until it is discovered that Stephen has a laptop. Frankly, with all that is going on and the lengths to which they are trying to keep the spectres at bay, having a laptop around seems like an awfully dumb thing. True to form, the computer flickers to life and a ghost shows up, pursuing Stephen and Justine. The two flee, never to return again, presumably sacrificing their friends and neighbors to the hungers of the dead. Nice.
Father and daughter set off through the city in the hopes of finding safety on the other side. Will they make it? Will the ghosts catch them? Who else will they meet along the way? And just what is it with the guy draped in red seen at the beginning? All, well some, of these questions will be answered by watching the movie.
It is not a great movie. Pulse 2 is awfully slow paced, with minimal gore, minimal cast, and minimal ghosts. It is not exactly the vision of a techno-apocalypse that I would have imagined. The acting is generally sub-par, the script is below average, and it ends up asking more questions about this world than it answers.
Even with these problems, I enjoyed the movie. I liked how we got some interesting views from the perspective of the dead, complete with their fears and frustrations. We also get some new details with regards to what is going on, what the dead want, and their distaste for the color red. I even enjoyed this father and daughter story of survival, even if their story is a bit more tunnel-minded than I would have liked.
Writer/director Joel Soisson does a nice job of stitching in a nice, creepy, suspenseful atmosphere. No, it is not particularly scary, although the big picture implications are rather scary. A large portion of the film also employs a high percentage of green screen work with the backgrounds keyed in with the actors doing much of their work on a stage. It adds to the creepy feeling, especially if you notice that the most obvious use of green screen is in conjunction with a ghost's appearance. Interesting, even if not wholly welcome.
Audio/Video. Both are decent, never disguising their low-budget but studio-based roots. The colors are sharp and clear while the audio is always clear and understandable. The image is 1.85:1 widescreen and it is joined by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
Extras. This Dimension Extreme (which is not all that extreme) release has scant few extras on it.
- Commentary. This track features writer/director Joel Soisson, producer Michael Leahy, co-producer Christian Agypt, line producer Ron Veccihiarelli, editor Kirk Morri, Makeup effects supervisor Gary J. Tunnicliffe, and visual effects supervisor Kevin O'Neill. Yes, lots of people, all led by Soisson. It is actually a decent commentary despite it getting side-tracked from time to time.
- Deleted Scenes. There are two scenes included. One is a cut bit from the opening man in red sequence where he explains what is happening, it is too much for such an early sequence, but I like how simply it makes it make sense. The other sequence is an unneeded father/daughter moment.
- Preview of Pulse III. A few scenes to whet the appetite.
Bottom line. In the end, this is a film that does have things to offer, if you are willing to dig for them. It is not successful as the original, but it does expand the universe somewhat, telling a complete story while also setting seeds for a second sequel (shot back to back with this one). Believe it or not, I will be there to see what happens in part three.