Although the horror film as a genre was created here in the States in the last couple of decades our horror film makers have had a lot of competition from overseas. While many nations are producing horror flicks one nation has become well known for defining this type of movie; the Japanese. Many of they movies are more psychologically inclined and many would say a lot creepier than their counterparts here. American horror masters are not the type to be out done and many of the most popular Japanese horror flicks have been re-imagined for American audiences. One of the imports from the Land of the Rising Sun was a little film called ‘Pulse’. It was only a single film overseas but here it is up to a trilogy and on its way to a full blown franchise. This is a new kind of horror film. While the traditional, classic plots have too do with ghosts and other monsters that are out to kill us all this movie uses the internet as the means to kill off mankind. It was really only a matter of time after all. Horror has to keep up with technology. Decades ago you might find a telephone that rings and connects you to the dead or the television as a portal to the other side of life. Now we get the idea that the computer networks we connect to for work and recreation are harboring something sinister and deadly. When you think about it the basic premise of the original story was brilliant. The typical demographic for horror films is exactly the same people who tend to live and work online. Horror at its best has to reach the audience on a personal level and for this generation this is something very close to home. The film under consideration here is the third installment and picks up right after the second. It is not as compelling as the previous two but does live up to the overall themes of trilogy. ‘Pulse 3’ had a film festival release a few months ago and is now getting a wider distribution through the horror arm of the Weinstein Company and Genius Productions, Dimension Extreme. This distributor is gaining a reputation for some of the quirkier and cult ready films of the genre so this one fits right in. It is a solid piece of entertainment that is great for a Saturday evening fright night.
The film was written and directed by Joel Soisson as he did with the second installment of this series. Soisson is becoming well known as a go to guy for horror and fantasy sequel. It’s been over a decade since he penned something with original characters but let’s not look at that as a negative. It takes a certain talent to pick up a story in mid stream and provide a means for a story to continue. There are more constraints to this form of writing and the author should be respected for the ability to do this. To date Soisson has worked on such successful franchises as ‘Highlander’, ‘The Prophecy’, ‘Mimic’ and ‘Hellraiser’. If you are all into horror you have seen his scripts and enjoyed them. In the first film a deadly computer borne virus that initially appeared to be a form of communication between the living and dead. By the second film the infection has spread to become a global problem forcing people out of the cities. The sparse populations have turned away from most forms of technology to avoid the deadly spirits. By this third time out billions have died from this plague carried on the internet. Humanity has become small, isolated communities that have made all technology forbidden. When a girl finds one of the last working laptops that harbor the menace it looks like the end will finally come for our species. This story does have an obvious tie to an ancient myth; Pandora's Box. There is something extremely appealing to investigating the unknown and forbidden. The circumstances of the plot force this young woman to embark on a journey to the old, ruined city. This is another classic theme; the hero’s journey. When a screenplay uses themes that have been around so long there is a familiarity that is reassuring to the audience and gives them something to identify with while watching. Yes, the script is full of clichés and is fairly predictable but this myth motif goes a long way to helping out but ultimately unravels along the way.
As a director Soisson also specializes in sequel. He has worked on the second ‘Pulse’ and has directed a pair of ‘The Prophecy’ flicks. He knows what it takes to get an audience back into the feel of the previous flick and keep the momentum going. His style is fairly straightforward for the genre. There are plenty of bloody scenes and jump cuts to keep things true to the demands of this type of flick. This film does continue the story line of the first two movies but there is a bit of a feeling that there was no pressing demand for this particular part of the tale. Since his screenplay contains a lot of rehashing of the previous events there is little here that helps to tie up loose ends. Like the script Soisson tries to hold things together and justify the validity of the film but things are wearing thin at this point. Okay, the ghosts have won and humanity is reduced to primitive conditions. This forwards the story to some extent but it is as the expense of the original themes. At the start it was a cautionary tale about our over dependence on our technology. This theme has been around for centuries with every generation suspicious of the new fangled ways. This movie is going along on impulse. It will hold your attention and give some scary enough moments but it has to stretch to reach its potential.
The film opens up with Adam (Rider Strong) talking to his girlfriend over the net. Strong has become a frequent cast member in films like this and generally does well in them. He moves into the kitchen where this is another video screen of the girl. He has screens all over his apartment so this is obviously prior to the technology plague. Later she calls him back upset about some sort of suicide cult. Whatever it is she is infected. This is a nice way to ease into the plot and set things up for the main story line. He flash forward to seven years in the future, the present, in Texas. Small groups of people have taken refuge in communities isolated from all technology. Justine (Brittany Renee Finamore) finds a laptop that appears to be in working condition. It is taboo to use it but the draw is strong. Eventually she discovers that she has to return to the city where the troubles began to find the answers she is looking for.
The film is derivative but fun to watch. For fans of the series it is a must have and for those new to the franchise it works as a stand alone film.