Pulse Directed by Jim Sonzero The Weinstein Company, in release
The J-horror remake wheel spins again, spitting out this pathetic Americanization of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's apocalyptic fable about a literal ghost in the machine. In Kurosawa's version (released briefly in the U.S. last fall and recently issued on DVD), a mysterious website functioned as a portal by which the dead could re-enter the world of the living, with unsavory consequences for all who logged on. In director Jim Sonzero's update (from a script co-written by Wes Craven), more or less the same thing happensonly instead of a band of smart, resourceful computer geeks, the victims are an assortment of vacant boy- and girl-toys (including Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell) who spend most of the film lounging about in skimpy attire. Kurosawa's Pulse was as terrifying for its sense of loneliness and communication breakdown in the technology age as for any ectoplasmic apparitions. Here, the computer-generated effects are plentiful, but the scare factor rarely rises above the level of a viral e-mail, and the desaturated color scheme makes every frame look as though it was developed in a solution of vomit and ash. The spirits in Pulse don't kill you outright; they drain you of your life-giving energy first. So does the movie.