Pulse 2 (2008)
Most major film genres started here in the United States. This doesn’t mean that we still have a monopoly on them, though. Action flicks have moved over to Hong Kong, gothic horror to Italy and Japan has taken on a more technological approach to the horror-thriller. In many cases filmmakers here in the States have responded by creating remakes of films from these other countries. More times than not these remakes are not up to the original in any respect. This trend is compounded by the Americans making sequels further diluting the story. Add to this the fact that many of these films are released as direct to video and you have the trifecta of bad movies. At least that is how things used to be. Sometimes a film comes along that can disprove these usual shortcomings. One such movie is ‘Pulse 2: Afterlife’ by Joel Soisson. It is not a classic or great horror flick but it does rise above others with a similar pedigree. If you consider each of the three potential negatives you’ll begin to see how this flick managed to avoid many of the usual pitfalls. First when translating a horror movie from Japan to the States one thing is paramount. The Japanese tend to go more for the psychological fright while over here are movie makers are more visceral in nature. To work the director and writer have to embrace what makes for an American horror flick. Next there is the downside of a sequel. Usually, especially in this type of movie it is little more than a repetition of the original story taken to a new and more extreme level. There has to be a real story with something new to say to make a sequel worth watching. The last item here is the stigma direct to video carries. With home theater in so many households this is now more of a legitimate way of distributing a film. In days now long gone by if a movie wasn’t given a theatrical release it was considered the illegitimate child of the distributors. Now direct to video is an acceptable means of an independent movie getting out to the public. With the internet providing access to movies, now going right to DVD is just a way for a smaller film to get a wider audience. One of the distributors of smaller horror movies is Dimension Extreme under the umbrella of the Weinstein Corporation and Genius Products. They are well known as a means for people to get films that would otherwise go unseen.
Joel Soisson is a name that is well known to the horror fan community. He does seem to specialize in sequels, which is an honorable profession and will never go out of style, especially in this genre. A lot of his experience has been on the production side of the field. On that part of his resume you’ll find a lot of diversity with everything from ‘Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure’ to ‘Dean Koontz's Phantoms.’ Most of the movies he produced were also written by him. In that aspect of film making he penned several sequels for established franchises including ‘The Prophecy’ and the modern ‘Dracula.’ While this may seem lackluster just consider it takes a special skill set to take an existing story and tweak out something new for the audience. In this case he took the ending of the original ‘Pulse’ movie and goes to an interesting extreme.
In that first movie ghosts have found a way to invade our physical world by coming through wifi and cell phones. This was a particularly spooky premise considering just how many people use those means of communication. The transfers have become pandemic and the people have shunned technology to prevent the invading spirits from hunting the living. The cities, Meccas for the outlawed technology have all but been deserted. Soisson uses the lost child ploy to force a man to return to the city to find his lost daughter. This is a common plot device in a lot of horror flicks but here it works out well. It adds some semblance of motivation that the viewers can identify with readily. This is also a post-apocalyptic movie with a distinctive horror twist. There have been many such films but the addition of the techno-phobic theme is one that sets the film above the usual slash and dash flicks. This also takes the film in a more psychological direction returning it to more of the original Japanese concept. This film does what a sequel is supposed to do. It takes the original premise and expands it. In the first movie the ghosts where only after a small group of young adults; now it is the whole population that is at risk. The danger is built nicely with odd touches like one ghost you are condemned to hang himself over and over for all eternity.
As a director, Soisson certainly has the skill for a sequel like this. He has honed his craft with other such films; some better some worse that we get here. His style is direct and to the point. Thankfully his experience keeps him from making the rookie mistake of trying to fit every trick that is taught in film school. He is a man who worked his way up and is well suited to bringing his vision to the screen. There is more than enough gore to keep the die-hard horror fans happy but it never gets in the way of the thriller elements he places in the story. He also refrained from relegating the storytelling to the special effects. Those effects are admittedly nothing special but they get the job done. The ghosts looked a lot like our old television sets when the wind used to blow the antenna around. He also can build the story slowly. This is rare now where most horror films seem to feel obligated to start off with a cheap, fast shock. Soisson gives his audience credit to follow a story.
In the post ghost world, the survivors of the attacks have moved out of the cities to remote locations without any form of technology. Stephen (Jamie Bamber) is trying his best to care for his daughter Justine (Karley Scott Collins). When she becomes missing it is up to Stephen to risk it all by going back to the dreaded city to find her and bring her home to relative safety. Bamber, famous to most for his leading role on the Sci-Fi channel’s hit series ‘Battlestar Galactica’ does an excellent job here. He has palpable chemistry with his young co-star selling his role as her father. This is vital to the development of both characters and is a factor often overlooked in this genre. For the audience to be scared, you have to empathize with the characters and care about their plight. The talent of the leads allows this to happen.
As usual, Dimension Extreme does its best with the DVD presentation of this film. It has excellent production values and some interesting extras. The commentary with the filmmakers is better than most and will give a lot of insight into how to make a film like this. This is one that will entertain so get it.
Posted 09/22/08 Posted 01/18/2020