Pulse (2006)

There are some frequencies we were never meant to find

Writers: Wes Craven, Ray Wright
Director: Jim Sonzero

Pulse is a US remake of the 2001 Japanese movie Kairo (also known as Pulse in English). Whereas the original was essentially an extended meditation on the human condition, loneliness and alienation the US version is a far more straightforward piece of story telling.

The story begins with student Josh (Jonathan Tucker) who we later learn is an accomplished computer hacker. He is seeing shadowy figures and strange things are happening to him. After an encounter in the library he withdraws from his friends and later commits suicide.

His girlfriend Mattie (Kristen Bell) wants to know what was going on, but it turns out he was only part of something much bigger. His hacking has released… things… into the internet and communication networks. These things covet life. If they get to you they steal your will to live, leaving you to either take your own life or eventually just disappear leaving only a shadow.

If you’ve seen the original then you’ll recognise the basic storyline. The script by Wes Craven and Ray Wright keeps elements of the original including ideas such as the webcam footage, red room and the “Help me” messages. There are even a couple of scenes straight out of the original. However it spends a lot less time examining the issues of loneliness and ironic lack of connection in modern society. The allegorical element is still there but toned down a lot.

As with the original, the true nature of ‘them’ is never made clear – if anything it’s even more ambiguous. They certainly appear to be literal ghosts in the machines but could also be aliens or even self-aware software agents. If you’re looking for a neat explanation and resolution you won’t get one here.

The direction by Sonzero is mixed. When he’s doing ‘creepy’ he’s excellent and gets a really good atmosphere. Unfortunately he has a tendency to then undermine it with cheap jump scares.

Overall, Sonzero’s Pulse could be described as a dumbed down version without the intellectual gravitas or emotional punch of the original. But I’m rather embarrassed to admit I actually prefer it.