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Reviews Database > DVD REVIEWS (P) > PULSE 2: AFTERLIFE (2008)
Published by Film Fanaddict on 2009/1/15 (2207 reads)
Directed By: Joel Soisson
Review By: William P. Simmons

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Released By: Weinstein Company
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Rating: R
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: English w/Spanish Subs
Region Code: Region 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Trailers, Commentary, Deleted Scenes

Armed with a stealthy sense of pacing, truly terrifying atmosphere, and themes as exotic to Western culture as they are convincing, Asian horror has a distinguished history of making the commonplace horrifying, even exhilarating. Add to this a penchant for crossing taboos and one can see why such mature supernatural thrillers as RINGU, THE GRUDGE, and SPIRAL helped jump-start a genre revolution in the 1990s. These mature nightmares combined solid “gotcha” scares with a more profound emphasis on character and surrealism, serving up subtle terrors in foreign locations whose people and settings added to the sense of displacement. Their sense of alienation was just as the ghosts. Hollywood, in its corporate approach to filmmaking, missed this message, trading integrity for complacency with a slew of emotionless remakes. None of the US remakes of original Asian hits possess the unique vision of their ancestors, but at least the Westernized THE GRUDGE and THE RING achieved believable characterization. Other pieces of hog swallow on the seemingly endless remake machine have not fared half so well, with remakes of THE EYE, SHUTTER, and DARK WATER emphasizing the inability of modern filmmakers to unearth original terror. These stinking heaps of commercialism show nothing more profound than the disastrous results of trying to ‘make hip’ stories that were already dramatically effective. PULSE (2) is another example of greed replacing artistic vision. Stereotypical ‘one size fits all’ mass entertainment. Predictable and lethargic in its atmosphere and pacing, the story doesn’t care about its own themes or characters.

The ‘story’ for PULSE (2)is really little more than loosely connected sketches thrown together in such slapdash fashion that even occasionally effective scares lose impact. There isn’t enough dramatic tension or characterization to arouse empathy. As a result, you don’t give a damn about these people. While the script is superior to its dismal predecessor (the US remake, not the original), focusing on a mother’s need and her daughter’s alienation, a barrage of unbelievable CGI and “Boo!” scares drain a potentially captivating family dynamic of its verve. Hazily depicted secondary characters offer no continuity or suspense, only further muddling tension and pacing. ‘The plot,’ as far as it goes, follows the upheaval suggested at the first film’s climax, with the world in global decay. Ghosts wonder the streets and haunt both loved ones and random victims for sustenance. The virus itself, which may be chemical, technological, spiritual (or all three) allows for plenty of attacks and bad dialogue but no plot logic. Fantasy, more so than other genres, demands an initial sense of realism if we are to later believe in the supernatural element that corrodes it: there is no such sense of realism here. The alienated husband and wife, the later of which doesn’t realize that she is a spirit, feel more like caricatures than characters.

No, PULSE (2) isn’t the insult that the 2006 American “re-imagining” of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s masterpiece PULSE (a.k.a. KAIRO) turned out to be. Yet the same basic flaws in story, aesthetic aims, and atmosphere remain. This isn’t so much trash (which can be fun and is not without its merits) as it is numb -- as soulless as the lost spirits is describes. One of the immediate differences between this and the former dog turd is writer/director Joel Soisson’s ability to evoke SOME amount of tension from the interplay between fragmented families. Yet this is never really allowed to grow, thrown aside with spineless CGI ghosts and ‘chase’ scenes that serve no purpose. Soisson displays creativity with camera angles and lighting, and the editing evokes a somewhat harried mood, but he can’t breathe interest into his own themes. Ultimately the screenplay feels unfinished. While it’s refreshing to see a grain of story this time, it isn’t enough. Soisson has helmed some taunt little scare gems in the HELLRAISER and PROPHECY series but looses out here. The real shame of this film (and other tireless remakes) is their liability to the originals. How many superior Asian fear fests have been ignored as a result of one of these problem children? Film companies are only responding to what a fickle and lazy audience seem to want -- a simplistic story, one dimensional characters, and catch phrases to text over their cell phones. In the meantime, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original nightmare requires some hard thinking and honest to God participation on the behalf of the viewer. His themes are shrouded in enigma, his terrors rooted in atmosphere, and his characters conceived with a realism many find too depressing. It is precisely this sense of doom and ambiguity that lends such terror and conviction to the story. With PULSE (2) you get a story with less effect than one of Kurosawa’s shadows.

However, you do get an excellent picture quality and some interesting extra features. It’s a sad state of affairs when the extras are more provocative than the movie itself, but that is exactly the case. If you wish to study all about the making of a film you didn’t particularly enjoy, this DVD packs a punch. The picture is presented in 16x9-widescreen, with fine detail and believable colors. No grain or technical problems mar the images. Audio is just as proficient, featuring a 5.1 stereo mix with no background interference.

Supplements include an “Audio Commentary” by director Soisson and FX artist Gary Tunnicliffe (along, it seems, with a host of other visitors), who spend much of the time discussing the rather brilliant effects. In fact, so much time is spent on breaking down the FX that story, just as in the script, is barely mentioned. “Two Deleted Scenes” are also on hand, neither of which are all that crucial, and a short glimpse of PULSE (3). “Trailers” for other Dimension Extreme pictures round out this disappointing experience.
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