Pulse barely has a beat of its own. An inferior American remake of the 2001 Japanese hit, this Wes Craven adaptation fails as a cautionary tale for the Internet age. Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) is Mattie, a college student whose semester, like, really sucks when her hacker boyfriend (Jonathan Tucker, The Ruins) fatally hangs himself with a phone cord. Not long after, she and her circle of friends receive the same string of instant messages from his computer, all reading, “helpme.”
With the help of the grease monkey (Ian Somerhalder, TV’s The Vampire Diaries) who bought the departed dude’s computer, Mattie learns that her BF accidentally had loosed a virus that unleashes pixelated specters that suck souls and/or leave its victims with an inky skin fungus. The damage is not consistent, nor the use of the Ring-esque clips that terrorize those who log on to the web, causing mass suicides across campus and beyond.
The best sequence has one unfortunate supporting player melting into an apartment wall; a runner-up gives us a human spider emerging from the laundry. However, these scenes and others are purposely too dark or too quick-cut, as to hide the budgetary seams. Directed with pallid blue-greens by debuting Jim Sonzero, Pulse overall presents its effects as lousy as it does exposition. The finale in particular, which lifts a plane crash directly from its source material, looks more green-screened than a leprechaun-managed Rent-A-Center.
One of Dimension Pictures’ last gasps at prolonging its post-Scream gravy train of teen-oriented horror pics, Pulse flopped, but somehow expelled two direct-to-DVD sequels in 2008, Pulse 2: Afterlife and Pulse 3. It’s tough to imagine anyone wanting to revisit the scene of this cybercrime. —Rod Lott