Pulse (2006)

Long on Special Effects, Short on Mystery

Main Cast: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Christina Milian, Jonathan Tucker

Director: Jim Sonzero

Plot Summary: The supernatural takes over when evil beings from beyond our dimension begin to invade through our own wireless technologies.

This movie is an adaptation of a small Japanese film (the earlier Pulse), and the differences between the two are illuminating. The former was much more lyrical, slow in motion, and very melancholy. The latter is more structured, less a sad tone and more of a standard horror flick, with a well-defined evil to fight against.

Both focused on a handful of characters, college-aged, mixed sexes. The Japanese film was less clear on the origin and even purpose of the spirits: they existed, they seemed to interact with people, and afterwards those that were touched by the spirits eventually either killed themselves or simply faded away. In the American version, there is a defined evil (a large, white-faced demon with four arms) that sucks the soul out of a person’s face.

Both films used our modern devises as portals for the spirits, although in the Japanese version the spirits did appear outside of technology. The American film clearly states that the creature or creatures use technology as totems or portals, and cannot exist without it.

Both films descend from a handful of living to only a few survivors, who flee the city as it slowly descends into chaos. The Japanese version ended with the hero fleeing on a boat, with the camera slowly panning back to show just how small the vessel was in the endless sea: obviously a metaphor. The American version ended with the two heroes in an Army camp outside of the city, which had been taken over by the spirits.

For my money I prefer the Japanese version. It is more storytelling and relies on metaphor and is almost a visual poem: the American version is a low-key horror film. Both were well-acted and had good special effects, the American version winning in that department. Still, a little more mystery and less “us vs. them” is better suited to this story, so please check out the original for a better view.

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