Review Date: October 3, 2008
Released by: Dimension
Release date: 9/30/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
Last year’s Pulse
made only a fraction of the remake of J-Horror patriarch The Ring
, and barely made back its budget, but considering the track record of the Weinstein’s of late, and their hiccupping Dimension franchise, that has to be seen as a pretty major success. Case in point, the announcement of Pulse 2
and Pulse 3
. Shot back to back Matrix style, and with about as many CG effects, they were designed to eschew the big budget Hollywood gloss of the original and revel in R-Rated direct-to-video grit. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Hide your cell phones, disable your wifi, and unplug your laptops…it’s time to check some Pulse
When the back of the box stated that Pulse 2
picks up right where the first left off, they weren’t joking! Immediately, without any explanation or back story, we’re thrust into the apocalyptic ravages of urban America. Our reliance on technology has spelled our doom, with ghosts traveling wirelessly through every piece of technology that hasn’t yet been destroyed. A man (who we later find out to be Zieglar’s brother from the first) makes the red tape motto of the original portable, cloaking himself in a combination of red tape, red sunglasses and red blankets. He’s got to get out of the city center quick. So too does Michelle (Georgina Rylance
), who wakes up from a day dream only to find her daughter missing and the world in shambles. She knocks on doors asking where her baby Justine (Karley Scott Collins
) is, but nobody is answering.
Michelle heads to her mother’s house, hoping for the best, but during her journey the realities of death set in with her a little more vividly than she’d like. Cities are covered in ash, people disintegrate before her eyes, their souls sucked out of them by waves of ghosts. People scream, but they no longer have a voice without their technology. Michelle finally makes it home, but things are not what they seem. Her mother seems distant, and when she finally encounters what looks like her daughter on the swing set, the girl runs away before showing her face. What’s going on?
Cut to Stephen (Jamie Bamber
) who sits aghast at the kitchen table. Before the epidemic he was unfaithful, making matters worse by then divorcing Michelle and taking their kid with him. Little Justine is mysteriously with him now, but she won’t be much longer if they stay in the city. He and his daughter trek out to their old cabin in hopes of finding Michelle and solving this old mystery. Once they arrive, they find the locals aren’t too friendly, paranoid that the interlopers are infected just like everyone else. Stephen hears about a rescue effort on the radio, and it seems like their only hope for safety. They’ve got to worry about more than technology attacking them though, there are some skeletons in his cellular closet.
Rather than an exploitative attack on our communication devices like the first, Pulse 2
is more post-apocalyptic drama on a shoe string. It keeps the ghosts from the first but virtually nothing else, and while that certainly doesn’t give you much to think about while watching, it at least lends to a quick and crazy pace. It was kind of refreshing that the film didn’t resort to lengthy back story in trying to connect the films or the characters. The world is fucked and you jump right in. Sometimes, brevity is best. When the previous film had elderly women yelling about WiFi and hacking via USB stick – brevity is definitely best.
The lame technobabble is gone this time around, and the story is more insular as it follows a trite, but moderately involving, family crisis. That’s now what we pay to see though, and thankfully this film delivers on its R-Rating (the previous was a kid friendly PG-13). The standout scene? Affirmation that, once again, the libido always overpowers logic when a horny hick decides to nail a ghost bareback on a log cabin floor. After he finishes, he looks down, only to find her, in pure Cabin Fever
fashion, rotting from the waste down into a thick black sludge. Can you say virus? There’s a few other appreciably grotesque moments help us get through all that “how do you explain the apocalypse to a child” melodrama.
Now onto the special effects. Actually, you can’t really call them special, since there is literally always composite upon composite in every single scene. We’re not just talking gory scenes, exteriors, action sequences and cyber stuff, we’re talking a woman grabbing a glass of water, or a guy sitting at his desk. To cut costs and to lazily leave everything to the post, nearly everything was shot on a green screen. The director reasons in the commentary that it’s too give the film a technological distance, but if that distance would have cost more would he be doing it? Nope. The effects people did a good job at trying to salvage reality from that, although it is curiously distracting when a man running in the woods is obviously never present. That’s the way George Lucas makes them, but the spontaneity of organic surroundings is something that can never truly be replicated.
If you can get past every scene being some sort of CG composite, Pulse 2
is a decently entertaining post-apocalypse flick with a few nasty notes. In fact, some might like it just for the fact that it is constructed entirely out of CGI air. The Kramer vs. Kramer story is trite, and the plot is terminally thin, but it does offer at least a somewhat interesting look the ghosts by humanizing their confusion and making their existence a little more plausible. But whatever, this is a movie designed for immediate consumption, so if you have any interest see it now, because in a weeks time you’ll forget it even exists. File, Save.
comes in a progressive, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Since virtually the entire film is composites of pictures taken in different lighting conditions, the look can be very off-putting. Contrasts levels seem all over the map. The first half has a lot more practical interiors though, and in those scenes the film looks quite good, with sharp detail and a consistently muted saturation. There’s some nice use of color at times, particularly inside the red tape van, which is a nice change from the overwhelming blue hue of the original. The biggest problem with this transfer, though is that because of all the green screen work, there’s several instances of green tinting on the edges of clothing or faces, and worse, grainy combing on the finer points of the chroma keys. This is most noticeable in Bamber’s hair throughout. Some scenes are worse than others, but the green reflections are a constant, distracting reality.
beats in Dolby Digital 5.1, and the track sounds perfectly adequate if not extraordinary. There aren’t many directional effects of note, but the film does have sufficient sound space, particularly in the apocalyptic street scenes. The traditional orchestral score is kept to a minimal throughout, and even at the end is understated. Voices register clean and crisp, and regardless of who’s saying the lines they are all one note.
Pulse had a fair set of extras, but understandably this disc is more sparse. Still, unlike most direct to video sequels, there are at least a few little extras. In terms of video based content, we get two couple minute deleted scenes, one that’s finished and the other that still has all the green screening visible. The green screen sequence is actually the more interesting, since it gives a window into the shooting process, and what it’s like for an actor to play a scene in a void of special context. The boom hovering in your face probably wouldn’t help things, either. There’s also a very short preview for Pulse 3
, which apparently takes place seven years into the future, following the man in red. If he’s half as good as the man in black from Halloween 5
then it will be worth the wait. The wait might be long though, considering in the commentary everyone mentions how Pulse 3
will be hitting Fall 2008. Whoops!
So yeah, that commentary. Basically, it’s the director and his boy’s club of effects men, producers and editors all sitting in a room gabbing about their film. They’ve all been working together for years so the camaraderie really shows in the track. Director Joel Soisson keeps the track continually in focus, and his talk is fairly engaging. The rest of the guys have fun poking fun at the film, themselves and even Kristen Bell at one point. Fun, light listening.
Pulse 2: Afterlife
betters its predecessor by cutting to the chase and taking all the liberties that an R-Rated film without any stars allows. What does that mean? A guy has sex with a ghost. There’s also some stuff about family values, apparently. The image is very inconsistent because of the kaleidoscope of green screen effects in application throughout. The sound is fine and the commentary is actually an amusing listen. It’s a decent way to kill a few hours if you’re in the mood, but don’t expect any afterlife. You won’t remember a…what was I saying?
Movie - C+
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B
Supplements - B-
- Running time - 1 hour 29 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Commentary with the director and crew
- Deleted scenes
- Pulse 3 preview