Even triple the Pulse couldn’t get my heart racing


Back in the day (2006), a singer named Christina Milian had a couple of hits (or just one, depending on your definition of a hit). YouTube “Dip It Low” if you want a reminder. Anyway, like the managers and agents of many struggling pop artists of the last decade, they decided to stick her in a Hollywood horror film. In this case, a remake of a Japanese film (covered at the end of this post). After all, The Ring and The Grudge had little tweens screaming in the aisles.

PULSE (2006)

Christina was heavily featured in the trailer for Pulse, doing her laundry in a dingy basement when a skinhead, ghostly flickering man-thing crawls out of the washing machine. If you saw the trailer, you pretty much saw the entire scene. What could have been the most frightening and suspenseful moment in this film was over in the blink of an eye.

pulse christina

Meanwhile, the actual star of the film is Kristen Bell, who won me over in Burlesque but still can’t save this movie. And neither can Wes Craven, who co-wrote the screenplay. And neither can one of the co-stars from the awesome but ill-fated TV show Reaper. And neither can Brad Dourif (aka: the voice of Chucky), in the obligatory horror icon cameo.

The message of Pulse is pretty clear—watch too much internet porn and the Wi-Fi monsters will get you. Well, porn or anything else involving your computer or cell phone. I don’t know. The movie’s main goal is to exploit the flickering ghost hologram effect of the time. You know the one. The ghost is all the way across the room one second and then re-pixelating a split second later to hog the camera and get its 15 minutes.

pulse monster

Computers start turning on even if they aren’t plugged in, cell phones receive messages even if they’re not connected to the internet. Yet, apparently you can escape the Pulse ghosts if you travel somewhere without a signal? So let me get this straight…the best data plan is one that has the WORST signal???

pulse male lead

To further complicate and bore, after playing with their computers or cell phones, college kids walk around like zombies for a short time, grow these creepy tattoos all over their bodies, lose the will to live, and then commit suicide. And if that doesn’t happen, they just get sucked into walls.

pulse kristin bell

But fear not (because this film isn’t scary). If you can’t get away from that damn 4G network, just cover every nook and cranny of your living space with red duct tape. You’ll keep out the Pulse ghosts AND the roaches.

Maggots in a fridge, a rotted cat in a closet (I think it was supposed to be a cat), a flickering fluorescent epidemic in EVERY damn building in the movie, and washed out Saw lighting can’t make this movie scary. When it ends with a Pulse Apocalypse, it’s seems a good promise of no sequels….

PULSE 2: Afterlife (2008)

And then comes Pulse 2: Afterlife, which proves that after the world ends, the only things still left on the planet will be the roaches and bad horror movie sequels—which the red tape won’t keep out. Perhaps the sequels had really low budgets, because it seems they couldn’t afford to scout out filming locations, so a majority of the 2 sequels take place in front of a green screen with the backgrounds dropped in later. I’ve never seen anything like it.

This one begins with some dude dressing up in red garb that makes him look like an Emperor’s Royal Guard from the Star Wars saga. He walks out onto deserted streets loaded with flickering Pulse ghosts, and then we are catapulted into the main story, involving a little girl, her mommy, her cheating daddy, and life after the end of the world.

pulse 2 little girl

Daddy and daughter spend the whole movie trying to get away from the towers that emit those bothersome cell phone signals, with random characters thrown in now and again to up the body count. While the Pulse ghosts were strangers in the first film, now they are loved ones, so angry mommy is hot in pursuit of her bastard husband. If the tagline “this time it’s personal” hadn’t already been used for the masterpiece sequel Jaws: The Revenge, it could have been used here.

Daddy and daughter end up at a lovely cabin in the snowy woods, where Daddy’s girlfriend shows up to absolutely STEAL the show. This campy, comic bitch rox—all the way to the grave. Daddy and daughter flee the secluded getaway when mommy comes flickering in, so she takes care of the girlfriend. Yep. The Pulse ghosts now have an agenda.

pulse 2 old people

Next, newly anointed Pulse girlfriend ghost gets naked, because, why wouldn’t she? A fat loser soon comes along merely looking to take cover in the charming cabin, but he totally scores! He’s soon fucking the flicker, and now we see a new addition to Pulse lore. These things start to turn into sticky black goo when you stick your dick in them!

pulse 2 black

Just when you’re wondering who that red dude was at the beginning (actually, you’ve totally forgotten about him), he reappears and carjacks Daddy and daughter. He says he has a plan to save the world or end it sooner. He makes Daddy run some errands for him, tells Daddy and daughter that red is the only frequency the Pulse’s can’t penetrate, supplies them with some red duct tape, and is gone.

If you try desperately enough to find a scare in Pulse 2, look to the scene where Daddy stops at a gas station to fill up his tank—forget what a stupid setup it is and just go with the cheap scare. Even so, the best scene in the movie is when Daddy (who’s really cute) loses his shit and smacks his little brat daughter upside the head.

PULSE 3 (2008)

Boy Meets World kid is the star cameo for the prologue to Pulse 3—which, in the epic Pulse timeline, would be taking place simultaneously with the original film. He’s in a long distance relationship with some chick living in Egypt. They Skype regularly—until she goes out onto the street and he witnesses her committing suicide through more cameras than can be explained during a Skype session (she must have had cell phones all over her body…and in front of her…and in back of her…and above her…).

pulse 3 rider

Cut to 7 years later, West Texas. The little girl from part 2 is now our 17-year old lead girl, living in the refugee camp with her new parents, where children are taught that technology is evil. And yet lead girl finds an old laptop under the seat of an old car. And of course she turns it on. She begins IMing with “Adam” from Houston. This is some serious pedophilia cyberstalking shit. Adam tells her everything she wants to hear and she agrees to go meet him! So she runs away from camp in search of him, with the battery freshly charged on her laptop.

Eventually she ends up at an old farmhouse with some elderly Black man. He’s very cordial, feeding her, giving her a place to sleep, promising not to rape her—and growing cotton in his fields. WHAT??? Are they SERIOUS???

Anyway, Black gramps actually does have an agenda. Just like Samuel L. Jackson did to Christina Ricci, he chains his little white pet up to a radiator. But only because he wants to use her laptop to bring his dead wife back and then feed whitey’s soul to her. So the sweet Black woman Pulse ghost flickers in, complete with a flickering old record player and a flickering shotgun she uses to repeatedly commit Pulse suicide. WTF? Now inanimate objects can come through the Wi-Fi??? I’ll take a new widescreen TV, Kinect for my Xbox 360, Move for my PS3….

pulse 3 chained

Even religion is tossed into the mix. I mean, hell. Lead girl keeps getting messages on her laptop to “Find Adam”. I don’t know why they didn’t just call her Eve. Once she gets away from bat shit Black dude, she gets to green screen Houston. She befriends a dog. She sees apartment windows covered with red tape. She easily gets in.

She meets red dude from the last film and remembers him carjacking her and her Daddy! He has a Pulse ghost girl captive in a red room and likes to torture her with a laser light because he found out they can feel pain. He tosses lead girl in there with Pulse ghost girl (Leaving me wondering, why doesn’t Pulse ghost girl escape when he opens the door??? And why doesn’t she attack lead girl once she’s tossed in there???). Red dude is outside the door reciting the most boring monologue about a computer program he devised to destroy all the pulse ghosts and a plan he has to destroy red so he can come back through the internet if he dies.

Of course lead girl has to get out and Pulse ghost girl has to exact her revenge on Red Guy. Suddenly, Pulse ghosts have discovered a new talent–they stick out their tongues and flick them around sexually when they suck the life out of your face. What-the-fuck-ever. Just end this shit already.

pulse 3 ghost

Shit happens, we find out who Adam is, all the Pulse ghosts are killed, and we return to Amish times. I kid you not. Hats, buggies, and all. No more internet porn. The world would be better off ending. Oh wait. No more electricity means no more Pulse movies. Maybe it’ll be worth sticking around for a while.

PULSE (2001)

Having never seen the original Pulse, after sitting through the torturous U.S. trilogy for this post, I didn’t expect much. Now that I’ve satisfied my impulse to see every Pulse, I’m amazed at just how much the plot was watered down for a commercial American audience.

Low-tech compared to the remake that came five years deeper into the internet age, the 2001 Japanese original isn’t just obsessed with the notion of technology taking over humanity; it also carries with it a message about sadness. It works to great effect, because in its lengthy 2-hour running time, the feeling of isolation truly begins to weigh heavily on the viewer.

Also notable is that the original is totally missing the washing machine scene made famous by Christina Milian and a bald guy in the American remake. Yet this film is still creepier.

A young woman visits a friend about a computer disk she needs from him. While she’s there, he hangs himself. Suddenly she and her friends must face the devastating effects suicide has on those the deceased leaves behind.

Meanwhile, another dude boots up the disc and we get a time capsule trip back to how computers used to function as he sets up an online account. Trippy.

But once he’s joined the World Wide Web, he gets sucked into the ghost story. He sees videos of people alone in their rooms and is then posed a question: would you like to see a ghost?

And boy do these friends begin to see ghosts. They are stalked by dark figures in the shadows and hear cries for help coming from human shaped black stains on the walls of rooms in which people committed suicide. Eek!

And they soon learn that when they find doors and windows covered in red tape, removing the tape and opening the door unleashes a dark form that chases after them. Double eek!

The kids do eventually determine that the dead souls have been unleashed through the internet and the red tape blocks the circuit, but the more interesting and tragic element here is that these ghosts aren’t killing people. Instead they are trapping them in their own loneliness for eternity. Holy fuck, that is some depressing horror.


About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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