Right off the bat one is tempted to give writer / director Joel Soisson a break on Pulse 2, and here's why: The guy got a deal to churn out two sequels to a lame remake of a fine Japanese film called Kairo. You probably remember the remake as "the one that starred Kristen Bell," if for no other reason. And while Soisson and his crew could have just shown up to deliver another technology-based body-count flick full of wretched dialog and blandly attractive young actors -- here he opted to go in a different route. Instead of doing just another version of Pulse, the director opted to go in a post-apocalyptic direction. Which means that while, yes, Pulse 2 is a pretty arid, predictable, and consistently goofy horror sequel, I have to give the guy points for trying something different.
Unfortunately my positivity regarding Pulse 2 pretty much ends right there, because good intentions or not, this is one choppy, sloppy, and confusing little offering. We open with the planet on the brink of total decay, with the virus from Part 1 going infectious on a global scale. I'm still a bit hazy on the specifics, but the way the virus seems to work is this: It's trasmitted through A) computer networks or B) infected people, and here's what the virus does: It turns you into a static-riddled TV-style specter who is destined to roam the narrow place between life and death, if only to spook and annoy your loved ones who have yet to become infected. Our main characters are an estranged husband and wife, and most of Pulse 2 centers on the parents' circuitous attempts to locate and protect their young daughter. Only problem is, one of the parents seems to be dead already -- but doesn't quite know it yet. I'm disappointed to note that the plot synopsis makes the movie sound more interesting -- and more logical -- than it actually is.
Battlestar Galactica star Jamie Bamber joins the B-movie horror club in typically undistinguished fashion. (Let's just say he's a lot more convincing on the sci-fi series.) The actor is asked to perform for more green-screens than the entire cast of the Star Wars prequels, and the movie's over-reliance on photoshopped backgrounds kind of deflates the whole "end of the world" vibe that the filmmakers were going for. As far as the horror angle goes, we're dealing with a fairly anemic affair. (Is this the first "Dimension Extreme" release to be rated R, as oppposed to Unrated?) The effects techniques employed to create the static-ghosts are passable at best, and there's at least one cool scene in which a "bad girl" character melts into a puddle of black goo -- but let's just say the scares and the splatters are annoyingly few and far between. And while much of the film is shot well and the editorial approach delivers a pretty brisk clip, these assets are working in service of a screenplay that feels only about half-finished. As if a few cool ideas were caught on paper, but then tabled for a later date once production began and most of the budget was spent on green-screen work.
Production is already underway on Pulse 3, and that should come as no surprise. As a writer or director, Joel Soisson has done a lot of resurrecton duty on series like Darcula 2000, The Prophecy, Hollow Man, Hellraiser, and Highlander -- some of which are perfectly enjoyable B-grade schlock. Such is not the case with Pulse 2, which arrives bearing more ideas than it has money to pay for, but at least it's not the same old schpiel. I'd much rather deal with a lame sequel that TRIES something than a lame sequel that just lies there, bathing in its own generic stew. Perhaps Pulse 3 will fix a few of these problems...
But if it turns out that you dig Pulse 2 a (whole) lot more than I did, then boy do I have an audio commentary for you. Gathered for the Pulse 2 chat-a-thon are (ahem) writer / director Joel Soisson, producer Michael Leahy, co-producer Christian Agypt, line producer Ron Vecchiarelli, editor Kirk Morri, makeup effects designer Gary Tunnicliffe, and visual effects supervisor Kevin O'Neill. (I can only assume the caterers and the gaffers were unavailable the day the commentary was recorded.) Also included on the Dimension DVD are a pair of deleted scenes, a brief teaser for Pulse 3, and a few trailers for other Extreme releases.