Review Date: January 1, 2009
Released by: Dimension
Release date: 12/23/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
What better film to kick off the new year than a film firmly grounded in the new technology of compositing literally every single object on screen to create a truly virtual world? To my surprise (and the surprise of about eight other guys probably) Pulse 2
was a fascinating title culled from the age of Google stock images and the ďdo it in postĒ mentality. That and it had the most slimy post coital scene this side of Cabin Fever
. Pulse 3
is finally here to wrap up the US trilogy that nobody ever really cared for to begin with. Itís here though, and itís got Rider Strong, so forgive me if I expect the depravity envelope to be pushed at least a little bit. At least use a stock photo from Rotten.com as a background composite, or something!
Imagine this. Itís moments before wi-fi networks go bad and open a portal for ghosts to cross over to the wavelengths of reality. Mankind has become so reliant on technology that a couple, Adam (Rider Strong
) and Salwa (Noureen DeWulf
) sustain an intimate relationship entirely online. Both his house in the US and hers in Cairo are outfitted with webcams in every room along with corresponding computer screens displaying each respective feed. So essentially they can go into every room of their respective houses and still see and talk with one another. They even mention having sex, but Iím not quite sure how that works. Because of the time zone difference, Adam goes to bed while Salwa continues on with her day, but when he wakes up in the morning, she sits oddly dazed at the monitor. Comatose, even. Apparently she was up late browsing online and then bam! A feed from Blue Undergroundís Snuff
Okay, not quite, but she sees some people dying on camera, and suddenly sheís infected and hurling herself off of a ten story building on her cell phone feed. Iíd hate to see her data transfer bill. Flash forward ten years later and the cyber apocalypse hath struck, leaving the lone survivors to seek refuge in rural, no-tech communities. They even have schools that reiterate the mantra that technology and wi-fi are the earthís evils, and that whatever one must do it must not involve the computer. Well, Justine (Brittany Finamore
) just has to be a rebel, finding an old laptop and immediately taking it online. Okay, why is it that she can immediately log on and strike up a chat with someone in Houston when the world has essentially ended, but I canít even print a document on my secure wireless network? Fucking film conveniences.
Against all logic, Justine decides to leave her foster family and go by foot from Ohio to Houston. Hey, seems like a smart move, especially considering she saw her father devoured in a field by a ghost in the previous film. She has some flashbacks to the previous film, and then runs into a crazy black cotton picker (seriously) who she thinks wants to rape her. I thought the internet was supposed to help break down these vile racial stereotypes? She escapes, and runs into the crazy red tape guy she met as a kid in Pulse 2
. Heís got a hack to bring ghosts back from the banished wavelengths, but heís also got a screw loose. Justine finds herself conflicted in the fight for the future Ė does she banish the Ziegler (Todd Giebenhain
) or does she side with the ghosts? And why the hell does Adam keep talking to her in voice over?
I was really into this for the first ten minutes. The whole cyber relationship between Adam and Salwa was engrossing. For once a futuristic relationship of entirely digital interaction that doesnít feel either entirely farfetched or alienatingly futuristic. This is a future that seems like a completely plausible reality. As a bit of social commentary, itís a gripping way to ground viewers into this futuristic world of liquidity of mind and body. The ďfakeĒ composited nature of almost all the shots further adds to this concept of false realities, and even more than in Pulse 2
, the CG style actually aids the themes presented here.
The following scenes of Justine in school was also a fun allegory to the typical teen impulse of wanting to escape the small time and head for the big city. Of course, when the small town is Eden and the big city the apocalypse, it adds an ironic transparency to the typical ďIíd rather learn whatís out there than spend another day in this shit holeĒ mentality. The problem with Pulse 3
, though, is that it doesnít capitalize on these interesting ideas. Instead, it coasts on the themes and universe created in the first two films, flicking the auto-pilot switch once Justine begins her odyssey into walking in and out of stock photos. My favorite is one through a perfectly composed apple orchard complete with a tipped basket of freshly picked apples. What?
The second film had a surprising amount of style and excitement, always making the most of this tech haywire premise. Shot back to back with the second film, though, Pulse 3
shows the whole Neo Art & Logic crew visibly running out of steam. The visuals are totally by the numbers this time Ė even that dolly seems to have been parked behind the green screen. Worse than that though, nothing really happens from the midway point onward. Anything that does happen is lifted from films prior, with the ending particularly lazy and derivative, once again, of The Terminator
. The second film had surprising energy, but this third (and supposedly final) entry is overcast at best. A storm coming, indeed.
Like Pulse 2
, this is a pretty ugly visual experience, but again, the completely composited style is of definite interest. Because everything is shot in front of a green screen the color palette is squelched, with no greens on screen and the rest of the saturation flattened in order to successfully isolate the subject from the artificial background. The lighting on many of these scenes donít mask, with harsh shadows on subjects and dull contrast on backgrounds. There are several scenes with green screen bounce back on bare legs or other objects close to the surface, so the future really does look sick. Since keying out subjects is never a flawless affair, the performers often have fuzzy halos around them to save the editors the time of combing through each individual frame. It looks like shit, but I guess you can admire the texture, right?
The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but I didnít really hear much of a surround track. It certainly sounds better than it looks, and there are actually some convincingly distorted ghost effects. There is also a lot of really obvious foley work done here too, which I guess comes part and parcel with a film done entirely on non-existent sets.
The deleted scenes on the second film actually offered a pretty compelling look into the all green screen production process, but this short 8-minute making-of is as vapid as all those wi-fi waves. Basically it is an edited collection of blurbs from Director Joel Soisson talking about whatever comes off the tongue, from conceiving of the idea after watching Date Line to really liking this guy who plays a guitar with one string. Honestly, one of the worst featurettes I have ever seen. Luckily the only other extra, a feature length commentary with Soisson, Producer Mike Leahy, Actress Brittany Finamore and Editor Kirk Morri, is a worthy listen. Everyone is much more candid here, and Soisson actually seems pretty shook up at all the bad press that Pulse 2
received. Heís actually very apologetic and even passively defensive when it comes to talking about the third, but that doesnít stop him from poking fun at himself, his crew and the film itself. Itís not as informative or entertaining as the commentaries on the previous Pulse films, but again, itís a nice bit of a bunch of direct to video vets shooting the shit.
had afterlife with a strangely involving story and style, and Pulse 3
begins the same way. There are some interesting things to be said about reality in a time of wavering technological reliance. Sadly, the film phones it in after a rousing first act, monotonously chugging from one artificial composite or shallow stereotype to another. There isnít even any gore, death or low brow depravity to at least keep things interesting if the plot wonít. The video still looks terrible, but somehow Iím drawn to this totally manufactured post-production construction. The sound, well, uh, itís there. The commentary is entertaining enough, but itís tough to wash the sting that is that grade school featurette. Completists may want to finish up the series and all the effective continuity, but itís going to be a rough ride for the brave. Pulse 3
is a flatliner.
Movie - D+
Image Quality - C-
Sound - B-
Supplements - C-
- Running time - 1 hour 31 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Commentary with the director and crew
- Making-of featurette