Tuesday, July 25, 2006

the US version of Pulse - I saw it - the (negative) review

Yesterday I got a chance to see the troubled American version of Pulse at a prescreening here in Hollywood. Kairo, the original (not hard to find on DVD here in the US), was directed Kiyoshi Kurosawa in 2001 and is thought by many to be an extremely scary film, though I find the what the film is saying about society to be far scarier than the ghosts themselves - see my review. Jim Sonzero's 2006 remake wants to nail the same point home, but as you can imagine, especially if you have compared Japanese and American movies before, the new film is far too obvious when it comes to delivering the message. It basically explains itself to death. Kairo had no problem leaving doubts in the viewers minds and letting us reach our own conclusions. The US Pulse, aimed at younger teenagers, gives the audience very little credit when it comes to viewer comprehension of the theme as well as the origin stories of the ghosts. Loneliness is death and we are alone save for our computers and cell phones. We think these devices are our lifeline to the world, but are really they are our lifeline to obliteration. The devices isolate us from each other. We are all together in the physical sense, but all engaged in solitary activities with e-mail, myspace, and text messaging. "Isn't this a form of social interaction?" you ask. I once read an account of a backpacker's journeys in Thailand that should shed some light on just how social this man/machine behavior. The backpacker observed the behavior of his countrymen in a crowded internet cafe and was profoundly disturbed. Not one person was speaking to another and each stared ahead zombie-like. What was it that they were missing out on? Real meaningful communication that face to face interaction can provide.

Look, we are all on the internet here, right now, but let's not fool ourselves, even if you leave me a comment this is a solitary activity.

Anyway, I don't need to drill the point into your head, this Pulse remake will do that for me. The movie opens with a montage of internet behavior, close-ups of text being typed into field on the internet. It's overkill really. Later scenes of the characters' over-reliance on technology are obvious as well. One girl finds a hookup on a myspace related site (although this scene is poorly constructed and hard to figure out) and another character text messages Kristen Bell when he is right next to her.

Now I would like to critique the part of the plot that gives too much background information on the origins of the ghosts so expect spoilers for the rest of the review.

Bell and the male lead aim to track down Ziegler, the man responsible for unleashing the ghosts upon the earth. When he is found (quite quickly I might add, this movie moves so fast that it's silly) the characters offers us full disclosure as to why everything in the movie is the way it is. That is not something that Kairo did. The fact that Pulse has to explain itself explicitly with a narration and flashbacks makes it evident that the movie could not explain the story in a better creative way. A subplot, also not in Kairo(it really seems like it ought to be a bigger part of the movie - though it goes nowhere) involves an antidote virus that can defeat the ghosts. It fails and is the subplot forgotten, perhaps due to lameness as the whole virus thing is played. Seen the Mangler 2?

How convenient that the gateway where the ghosts pass through into the human world happens to be beneath the computer lab in Bell's own college. I suppose though, that one could draw parallels to the lame Ziegler character and the graduate student in Kairo that devised a program where dots are drawn to each other, but then can never collide on a computer monitor. However the graduate student is for more enigmatic.

Now lets talk about moments in the film that are just cheesy, some of which brought unintentional laughter from the audience. Bell's friend apologizes the moment before she turns to dust. The characters in Kairo were far to gone to do this at their times of annihilation. Certain lines were just bad and a scene where the heroes find themselves in a cafe in the half-deserted world contains characters and dialogue that had everyone in the theater practically falling out of their seats. Couple these problems with no character development and you have got a movie that can't be taken seriously despite many attempts.

Perhaps my main qualm in this movie is that there appears to be a main villain when there should just be ghosts. For some reason (not explained - I don't know why, the movie painstakingly lays everything out) we get this reoccurring ghost, a baldheaded naked guy. Does this movie need a Freddy Krueger or a Pyramidhead? I did not go for him, nor was I impressed with the effects where when this guy 'gets' you he screams in your face and your soul gets sucked into his or something. Not too scary and looking like a parody of 90's and contemporary horror. I will say that one scare, in the same style of a ghost attack in the original Kairo, is done very well and is pretty terrifying. It is the slow motion ghost attack.

I know that in the original preview for this movie, and the commercials that aired months ago when the movie was supposed to come out, there were effects scenes lifted directly from Kairo. People wondered if these were going to make it into Pulse or if the would make their own damn effects already. Well, the plane crash scene is in the cut that I saw (though this may not have been the final cut), but unfortunately I could not tell if it was the same effect or not. You be the judge.

It gives me no pleasure to say Pulse is not that great although I had the impression that it was going to have serious problems due to stuff like the delays and the presence of the Japanese 2001 special effects showing up in the trailer for an American 2006 movie.


Blogger Patrick said...

Sometimes I wish I could shut the computer off.. and do things like make friends.

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I'll be your friend, Patrick...

*screams and sucks his soul up*


9:21 PM  

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