In an ever-lengthening and inglorious list of film sequels that are as poorly executed as they are ill-conceived, Writer/Director Joel Soisson’s PULSE 2 reigns supreme. To be honest, a lot of films that weren’t good to begin with get sequels greenlit. It happens everyday in Hollywood. So, just because I didn’t like PULSE the first time hardly means that I’m not gonna like PULSE 2. I never sit down to watch a movie with the intention of disliking it. If I were gonna do that, I just wouldn’t watch the freaking film. When I sit down in front of a movie screen with a viewing audience or all by my lonesome, I can always hear Kurt Cobain humming in my ear “here we are now, entertain us”. Eternal optimist that I am, it really makes me mad when a film truly blows it. And baby…after 89-minutes of PULSE 2, I’m about ready to kill somebody.
Picking up sometime after the events of the first film, the world has been taken over by ghosts who manifest through technology—like cell phones, T.V. sets and computer monitors. They infect the living with a kind of death virus that turns the victims into ash. Survivors have fled the cities and now live in camps where cell phones and Wi-Fi don’t work (this is like a Sprint reps worst nightmare….no signal). In PULSE 2, we see both sides of the story: the living and the dead. The plot follows a separated husband and wife (Jamie Bamber and Georgina Rylance) who are both searching for their missing daughter Justine (Karley Scott Collins). Throughout the film we see the search through both the mother and fathers eyes—all leading to a pretty obvious conclusion.
Have you ever watched a sequel to a movie and thought “hey, I bet this was another movie that just got a name change stuck on it before release”. I’ve seen that happen a lot over the years (especially in horror). And even though I know Writer/Director Joel Soisson worked on the original PULSE film, I sure get the feeling that this film was originally conceived as a stand alone movie that got PULSE slapped on it for marketing purposes. It really doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong about this, because if you watch this film, you’ll get what I’m talking about immediately. It has no visceral, tonal or aesthetic connection to the source material of the original production and it’s obviously miles away from Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original 2001 film KAIRO. It’s just a twisted ghost story about a parent that doesn’t know their dead. Did anyone here see THE OTHERS? But, the plot—as painfully slow as it is—is not the most egregious error on display here.
If Robert Rodriguez and Zack Snyder have taught us anything over the past 3 years it’s that the use of Green Screen effects in the hands of masters is a glorious thing to behold. Taking audiences in the realms that were virtually unimaginable back in the days when TRON was the pinnacle of CG imagery. PULSE 2 sets that idea back 10-years or more.
It appears that virtually every shot in this film is some kind of Frankenstein composite—superimposing foreground and background shots with live actors and still frame streetscapes and sets. What’s worse is that the lighting and shot composition is so painfully mismatched that it’s obvious in every scene. Great effects work should be seamless. No one makes fun of the Matte Paintings in STAR WARS because they don’t look real. But here the characters in the front of the frame are crisp and clear, with even lighting and overhead spots, while the backgrounds are soft focus stages with no depth of field. It’s like everyone in the film was stuck in the Sears Portrait Studio and decided to use the backdrops to stage a movie against. In the most unbelievable example of shoddy effects work—and it sets the stage for the rest of the film, being that it’s the opening scene—a character covered head to toe in red goes walking down a deserted city street, all the while surrounded by a halo of green peeking just centimeters away from the body. Seamless effects work? I can see the seams! Talk about pulling the curtain back on the wizard!
It’s really difficult to tell you if the scripting or the performances or the pacing or the…I don’t know…is any good in this film, because to get to those things one would have to overlook the glaring ineptitude of the effects work and the stagnant direction on display. Apparently I failed in my ability to overlook the obvious and peel the onion back on this tale. Frankly, the idea for the film is interesting and could have made for an entertaining movie…but it didn’t gel at all. I did perk up once or twice when I noticed a cameo from FEAST director John Gulager and his wife Diane Goldner. Some of you might remember that Joel Soisson appeared on Season 3 of PROJECT GREENLIGHT as one of the producers Miramax/Dimension had working on FEAST. So, if you’re a fan of that, you might want to check this out. For me it just hammered home one other sad fact. In 89-minutes of film John Gulager’s 30-second cameo death sequence was the highlight of the whole damn thing. So, maybe it’d be best to just skip the other 88 ½ minutes of this flick and pop FEAST in for the rest of the time.