OCTOBER 4, 2008
I’ve already forgotten most of what occurred in the first Pulse, and my review didn’t help jog my memory much. But I feel safe in saying that Pulse 2 is better, and if not for some truly abysmal greenscreen work ruining damn near half the movie, I would even defend it should the need arise.
Let’s get that greenscreen shit out of the way. Apparently, this is just a new tradition for Dimension (or, more specifically Neo Art + Logic, who produced both films), as Feast 2 also suffered from terrible greenscreen work. But at least there it was seemingly confined to the skyline for all of the scenes on the roof, and on a TV that’s not properly color balanced, it’s not really noticeable. But in Pulse 2, we have a greenscreen log cabin, suburban house, city street, gas station, field... in other words: ordinary, everyday shit. How hard could it have been to find a goddamn cabin to film in? Instead, we get poor Jamie Bamber standing in front of a log cabin wall that is lit entirely different than he is, scaled too large (Bamber seems about 4 feet tall in front of it), and looks entirely flat. Plus sometimes the actors are opaque, because the effects guys obviously tried too hard to blend together the mismatched footage. I felt like I was watching the cut scenes of a bad CD-ROM game from 1994. It’s actually kind of ironic; if you’re familiar with Bamber it’s because of Battlestar Galactica, so instead of seeing him in front of obviously not real (but usually quite good looking) outer space footage, we see him in front of every day things looking as unnatural as any actor ever has. Even the driving shots, which are pretty much always shot this way in every movie, look better than the bulk of the others, probably because it’s actually footage instead of still images. They obviously went around shooting all the backgrounds, but why they did it with stills and not video, I have no idea. Christ, it’s almost as if they went out of their way to make the film look terrible.
But otherwise, the only problem with the movie is that it’s feels more like a few episodes of a Pulse TV show strung together than an actual full length film. There is the obvious through-line of Bamber trying to get his daughter to safety, but every half hour the movie switches gears. The cabin stuff is all the first half hour, and then there’s a never explained bit where a guy dressed entirely in red (which keeps the ghosts away) kidnaps Bamber and makes him pick up a specific piece of computer hardware that takes up another 20-25 min. Finally, it’s like a stripped down version of The Mist, with Bamber and his daughter driving, running out of gas, and feeling despair. You could remove any of these lengthy sequences and be left with pretty much the same movie.
That said, it’s enjoyable enough, in a small way. Bamber is actually pretty good here (I’m still on season 1 of BSG, so maybe this changes, but he hasn’t impressed me so far on that show), and the backstory of him and his (hot) exwife is much more compelling than that of the annoying kids in the original. Since the film is rather stripped down in terms of horror and effects, they actually have time for character development, so that was appreciated.
The horror bits are OK too. John Gulager cameos, in his underwear. Terrifying. And a couple of the shots of ghosts appearing out of nowhere are pretty effective. Again, this is all compared to the original, which was frenetic and incoherent at almost all times. It doesn’t hold a candle against something like The Eye 2 or The Ring, but as DTV sequels to crappy films go, I can think of many that are far worse.
The DVD has a commentary with pretty much all of the creative/technical guys on the credits, but none of the actors. It’s an enjoyable enough track, but they seem to think their greenscreen work is terrific, and they never once say “Hmm, maybe we should have just shot this part in an actual location, since one could be found anywhere”. Apparently it was a time-saving technique; they wouldn’t need the actors for as much time as they would if they needed to send them off to different locations every day. But Christ, I would have starred in the film for free if it meant that they would put me in an actual cabin or city street and end up with a better film. But at least they seemingly have at least some sense of humor about their other films; they point out that Kristen Bell made fun of Pulse in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and then they launch into a series of Phantoms lines from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Ah, Dimension... so many terrible films for us to mock as one. They also suggest that the next sequel will explain the purpose of the aforementioned computer chip, so there’s something. There’s also a brief teaser for Pulse 3, as well as a pair of deleted scenes of no real use. Since they are so proud of it (Joel Soisson even compares it to Sin City and 300!), I am actually surprised that there isn’t a single making-of type thing focusing on the greenscreen process.
This movie has been torn apart on the IMDb, but other than the greenscreen stuff, I don’t think it deserves such a thrashing. I suspect that the abysmal look of the film is what’s actually turning people off, but I also suspect some folks actually like the original, so whatever.
What say you?