THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY PHOTO
Mattie Webber (Kristen Bell) and her friends rally to stop a terrifying evil from taking over the world in Pulse.
Stars: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder
Director: Jim Sonzero
* (out of five)
Pulse, in which that girl from Veronica Mars battles a plague of Internet ghosts, is a shoddy excuse for a horror movie: It’s stupid, it’s dull, it’s unintentionally funny in the worst possible way.
But it didn’t have to be. For proof, one need only to look at another Pulse, this one made in 2001 by the Japanese writer-director Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
That film — which also dealt with a plague of Internet ghosts — managed to somehow be utterly unsettling, and entirely credible, without ever teetering into the sort of clumsy, stilted cheesiness that so permeates this remake.
Kurosawa’s film — which has only just surfaced on DVD over here — still has the power to terrify. So why doesn’t the American Pulse work?
Well, for a start, it’s because director Jim Sonzero has just assembled the usual collection of pretty TV actors — with Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars and Ian Somerhalder from Lost as their leaders — and framed them in broody, digitally degraded sepia tones against an assortment of borrowed shock effects.
He’s lined up all the tropes of the quickie J-horror remake — nightmarish Kabuki spectres, a mutant cat that makes a scary cameo and is never seen again, blurry digital ghosts that only appear in mirrors to creep out our clueless characters — but he never deploys them to any real effect.
Worse, Wes Craven’s screenplay seems to have been written on a bet, with key signposts of Kurosawa’s film dropped into the usual teen-movie clichés and half-understood technobabble (“It came in over the Wi-Fi!”).
And that’s before he decides that all the creepy ambiguities of the original script need to be explained for the North American audience.
Oddly, it was right around that point that Pulse 2006 lost the audience at a preview screening. Fortunately, you can decide to lose this turkey before you ever get to the theatre.
Don't miss the rest of today's movie reviews by Norman Wilner and Rick McGinnis: