Pulse (2006) - Unrated Widescreen Edition

Genre(s): Drama / Horror / Mystery / Thriller
Dimension || Unrated - 88 minutes - $29.95 || December 5, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-11-28

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Jim Sonzero
Writer(s): Wes Craven and Ray Wright (screenplay)
Cast: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Milian, Rick Gonzalez, Samm Levine, Kel O'Neill, Ron Rifkin

Theatrical Release Date: August 11, 2006

Supplemental Material:
  • 2 Filmmakers' Commentaries
  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes
  • Creating the Fear: Making Pulse
  • The Visual Effects of Pulse
  • Pulse and the Paranormal
  • Theatrical Trailer

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.


Plot (from DVD backcover): When the dead discover a means to contact the living through electronic devices, cell phones and computers become gateways to monstrosities and destruction.

“The world we know is gone, but the will to live never dies.” That is, unless you watch this drivel. My will to live has been severely diminished.

Pulse is just the latest Japanese horror ported over to the States. Having seen the original (called Kairo), this pales in comparison but not because the original was scarier, it wasn’t, but because the message wasn’t so spelled out like it is here, but instead displayed with the characters. It’s a message that’s not only cautionary, but also sad. The problem between translating this for an American audience is there are cultural elements we don’t understand (a la the red tape). The color red has significance while here it’s just the color red...

Focusing on this on its own, Pulse simply put is not scary. It slugs along for 80 some-odd minutes with the occasional stop for the characters to either have an encounter with the phantoms -- ghosts that have found a way into our world via a previously unknown wavelength -- or explain what’s going on; and that is when you know a movie is in trouble.

If the poorly developed script, by Wes Craven (Cursed) and Ray Wright (debut), wasn’t enough to drown this claptrap (yes, I’m delving into a thesaurus, but to keep me entertained), the direction from rookie Jim Sonzero makes things even worse. Instead of creating a creepy atmosphere, he voided the film of any life or, more importantly, light, that even if I was gullible enough to be scared, I couldn’t tell what the hell was happening on screen. Sonzero, like Tony Scott, came from commercials and it’s obvious that he should’ve stayed there. Even a half-decent director can take a poorly written screenplay and mold it into a tolerable movie.

Perhaps Sonzero isn’t entirely at fault since despite the film taking place in Ohio, but instead looked like 1980s Soviet Union -- it was, in fact, filmed in Romania. The architecture isn’t even close to anything I’ve seen in the U.S. and while I applaud them for saving money -- the less the better -- could they at least find somewhere comparable?

Yet, the s*it screenplay and direction are only a part of why this movie is bad, the acting doesn’t help matters. Despite trying to bring in some veteran talent with a throwaway (and quick payday) performance from Ron Rifkin (TVs “Alias”), who is given the coveted “and” credit, they brought together a hodgepodge of various young actors. Having never seen her in the lowly rated, though cult favorite, “Veronica Mars”, Kristen Bell is a lovely looking woman, but a scream queen she is not. It also doesn’t help that Bell just isn’t a good actress. Even with bad/contrived dialogue, she isn’t able to pull off this role. Of course, perhaps I’m too harsh on her and the rest of this cast. How else would anyone with an ounce of talent be able to make this material work?

Adding to the list of young actors are Ian Somerhalder (TVs “Lost”), Christina Milian (sexy singer), Rick Gonzalez (Coach Carter), Samm Levine (Not Another Teen Movie), and a quick appearance from Jonathan Tucker (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). There wasn’t a single individual who stood out even with a bad script or terrible direction.

It makes me sad to see yet another Japanese film bastardized by American filmmakers with none of them truly representing what made the originals good. What’s even sadder, however, is Pulse actually makes The Grudge look like an entertaining film. Certainly, there are movies that are so bad, they’re good or at least retain some entertainment value, but there is nothing here that I found the least bit scary, entertaining or any sort of emotion whatsoever.

I beg you sincerely, DO NOT RENT THIS! You may also lose your will to live. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and watch Gigli.

Note: This is an “unrated” edition for a movie that was theatrically rated PG-13. Since I haven’t seen the rated version, I can’t tell you what the difference is, but it couldn’t be much. This one officially clocks in at 88-minutes while the other version is right around that mark. Read further as the commentaries do mention what was added.


On the surface, it seems like this disc is stacked with a decent amount of features... but looks can be deceiving. There is less than 20-minutes worth of featurettes here, so maybe that’s a good thing.

Filmmakers’ Commentaries - There are two feature-length commentary tracks, both are quite entertaining (far more so than the movie itself). The first track has Director Jim Sonzero and Special Makeup Effects Designer Gary Tunnicliffe. Although this isn’t as good as the second track, the two here have a good time in between providing some info into making the film, talking about critics and Sonzero’s experience with his first feature film. Even though neither outright admit it, they seem to concede that the exteriors in Romania aren’t even close to resembling locations in the States.

The second features a variety of fellows: Producers Mike Leahy and Joel Soisson, Actor Samm Levine (Tim), Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin O’Neill, Editor Kirk Morri, and Line Producer Ron Vecchiarelli. Looking at the menu for the tracks, I feared the latter would be a patch job with each chiming in for certain scenes (I hate those kind), but to my surprise they’re all together and have a great time. There’s some insight into filming in Romania and such, but much of it has them joshing each other. Surprisingly, I expected the lone actor to provide much of the fun, but the rest are quite funny as well.

Both tracks make mention of the differences between the theatrical and unrated versions, but if you want a little more detail, listen to the second track. Some of the new material included more web-cam suicides (gun, knife) and the woman jumping from the water tower featured in the trailers. The MPAA was uncomfortable with the suicides and thus gave them an ‘R’ rating, so those scenes had to be cut to gain a ‘PG-13’ rating. Interestingly, they cut back one scene between Bell and Milian a little where it’s explained what the phantoms want...

Deleted/Alternate Scenes (12:16) - Seven deleted and alternate scenes obviously don’t make much of a difference for the final product and a few actually feature more exposition (like we needed more). For you Somerhalder fans, there are a few more scenes including an intro (he’s a computer guy, gets chewed out over the phone for not having a CPU ready) or an equally unnecessary scene of him buying Josh’s computer. Also included are a couple alternate sequences, out front an alternate ending where Dexter dies, well, sort of... Mattie wakes up and in the truck and finds Dexter is gone. Upon further exploration, his black essence is all that remains on the road. {Remember kids, look both ways before crossing the street!}

Creating the Fear: Making Pulse (7:00) - A shallow look at how and why the filmmakers chose to unleash this atrocity on the public. They look at the director, the various cast and how much they enjoyed working with each other. Producers explain why this was a worthy project and how it was translated from the Japanese version to here in the States.

The Visual Effects of Pulse (5:56) - This featurette provide interviews with the visual effects supervisors and others showing how various aspects were filmed such as the phantom hands grabbing Kristen Bell (and who can blame them?). What I don’t get is why this needed to be here. The visual effects were just as cheap as the rest of the film.

Pulse and the Paranormal (4:21) - This “X-Files” segment features sound bites from the (so-called) experts talking about ghosts using the technology to come through or contact with this world. They offer up various screen captures to prove this (though many of them don’t look like much).

You also get the theatrical trailer, which provides clues as to why this was a box office failure.



The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35 OAR. Colors are almost completely gone from beginning to end and the entire thing looks bleak, though I guess that was what the director wanted so can’t fault the transfer. Of course, they could’ve brighten things up a bit so I could at least see what was going on at times (in general scenes, not the one’s that hide how crappy the “phantoms” look).

The audio realm is actually quite impressive, even with the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. What’s great is the subwoofer that shook the door and window, rarely has a movie done that when not cranked way up.


I’m sure those creeped out by Bell on the DVD cover will grab this and hope it’ll just be a fun experience, but even by one’s lower standards, they’ll be disappointed. The story, even though spelled out, makes little sense (what was up with the cat?) and the rest is just simply awful.

Sometimes a DVD can help a bad movie be better with commentaries and such, but it isn’t the case with Pulse - which you will have little of after watching this dreck. Not to say the commentaries weren’t fun -- hell, they were far more fun to listen to than the actual feature --, but unless you actually found this film scary in theaters or you want to psychologically harm an enemy, stay away.