February 7, 2009

DVD Review: Pulse 3

What? They actually made a third? Rather surprising when you consider the critical savaging it was forced to endure. You would have thought they would quit while you are ahead. Well, this is what happens when you shoot two direct-to-video sequels to a moderately successful big screen feature back-to-back. What are you going to do? Hold back a film that you paid for where it has no chance at all of making any money, or do you hold your chin up and set it loose upon the public and hope for the best? Dimension has opted for the latter where they have a shot at making some of their money back. But, is it worth your time? Now that is a loaded question.

15488_pulse_3_screen_arm_warpThe store begins in 2006 when Pulse landed on the big screen (well, it technically goes back to the original Japanese film in 2001 directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa). The Kristen Bell starring film proved to be quite good to this viewer. I loved how it took this epic tale of death leading towards unending sorrow and terror and brought it to a personal level, forcing the characters to carry a large portion of he story that a bigger film may have shuffled off to the effects, allowing us to become a bit more closely involved with the characters.

The second film arrived to little to no fanfare and when people got to see it, there was such an outcry of hate and disgust that it is hard to cut through the perceptions and just watch the film. All right, I am exaggerating a little, but there is no secret to it not being a terribly good film. Funny thing is, I liked it. You read it right, I am one of a mere handful of people who liked that movie. If you don't like that, you will want to stop reading this now. Why? Let me clue you in on a little secret, I like this one too. There, I said it.

15491_pulse_3_screen_girlPulse 2 picks up shortly after the techno-apocalypse broke out in the first film. It chronicles the journey of a father and daughter in the hunt for safety on the other side of a dead city, a city roamed by the phantom dead flickering to and fro, reenacting some of those final acts of their lives. It is a race to live as they know the dead are on their trail. As that story ended, a new one was bound to begin, as the story does not really end. I do not want to spoil it for you.

The third film picks up some years after the second one. Humanity is still relegated to life in the dead zones. Apparently the power in the towns and cities is still going without any human intervention. Justine (Brittany Finamore) lives in one of these refugee camps with her adopted family. You may remember Justine as the young girl in Pulse 2. Despite the rules against electronic equipment, like laptops and cell phones, Justine is drawn to them. She sneaks a peek on an old laptop only to be contacted by someone named Adam (Rider Strong).

15489_pulse_3_screen_blue_ghostBased on her odd contact, she sets off, alone and on foot, from the camp and heads back towards the city and, presumably, Adam. It is not an easy journey, or one without its dangers. Who knows if she may stumble into a WiFi hot spot and inadvertently gain the attention of the phantoms looking to rip the life from her throat, or if she will meet any crazy people who have been living alone, devoid of any human contact for years on end.

As dangerous as the journey is, it is only the beginning. In Pulse 2, we were introduced to the Man in Red, a crazy guy who learned of the phantoms' one weakness, the color red. He forced a young Justine and her father to give him a ride and steal a computer chip. Now, Justine comes face to face with his craziness one more time. This time we learn more about what he has been planning and just how deep his wellspring of crazy goes.

15490_pulse_3_screen_ghost_armsIt is this final third of the film where everything gets a little hairy as revelations are made about the nature of the phantoms, a potential way to stop them, and just what has become of Adam, the mysterious man at the other end of the computer. It fits together in rough fashion, but still proves to be an interesting conclusion to the critically controversial trilogy.

Just like the previous entry, Pulse 3 was written and directed by Joel Soisson. Again, he does a fine job of piecing together a film with scary big picture implications and slow burning tension. Yes, it is low budget, but that only forces them to be a little more creative. Like the prior film, there is a lot of green screen work. It is not always as obvious this time around, but I like the otherworldly feel that it gives the overall look of the film. It seems appropriate, considering the subject matter.

Audio/Video. Both are decent, never disguising their low-budget but studio-based roots. The colors are sharp and clear while the audio is always clear and understandable. The image is 1.85:1 widescreen and it is joined by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Extras. This Dimension Extreme (which is not all that extreme) release has few extras on it.
  • Commentary. This track features writer/director Joel Soisson, producer Mike Leahy, actress Brittany Finamore, and editor Kirk Morri. The track is really quite good. They recognize the fact they are low budget and not everything is perfect, but you can tell they are proud of their work and had a good time making it. I was amused to hear them acknowledge the critical drubbing of the last film. If you like the film, this is definitely worth a listen.
  • Pulse 3 Behind the Scenes. This 8.5 minute featurette is a rather fluffy piece that goes into the origins of the story, which happens to be online sexual predators. We also get a look at one of the cooler effects shots, and musician Robert 'One String' Gibson who makes an appearance.

Bottomline. I am a fan of this series, as unnecessary as it seems. They provide a different look at the post-apocalyptic world, one that is not as destructive as they usually are. The acting is adequate and the story has a slow flow that actually works. If you liked the second one, you will like this, otherwise you will want to steer clear.

Mildly Recommended.


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