The beginning . . . of the end.
In 2006, horror director Wes Craven penned a remake of the 2001 Japanese fright fest Kairo along with Ray Wright. The result was titled Pulse and starred Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars fame. Bell played a college student studying psychology whose friends - along with human civilization - fall prey to a supernatural force spread through communications technology. It ended up being an apocalyptic affair, and the movie must have made a couple bucks at the theaters, as Dimension Extreme opted to follow up Pulse with two direct-to-video sequels.
The first of these sequels arrived a few months ago. Rather lazily titled Pulse 2, or alternately Pulse 2: Afterlife, the movie was a mess, even by direct-to-video standards. Apparently set during and immediately after Pulse, Pulse 2 followed a single father trying to protect his only daughter from the ghost of his crazy ex-wife. The movie failed to cash in on the apocalyptic setting of the original, favoring, instead, a melodramatic exercise in bad acting and even worse green screen technology usage. Jamie Bamber from the new Battlestar Galactica headlined this disaster as the father, but not even his presence could elevate the dismal proceedings.
Shot a week after Pulse 2 by the same conductor of that train wreck, Joel Soisson, Pulse 3's timeframe is a bit of a mystery. Before I continue with this comment, though, it should be noted that Pulse 3 is a direct sequel to Pulse 2, and as such, its scenario spoils the conclusion of Pulse 2. You've been warned.
In any case, the movie states that it's seven years after Pulse 2, while the DVD's cover art states that it's a "nearly a decade" afterward. I mention this only because the timeframe in the blurb actually makes more sense than the movie itself. Pulse 3, after all, follows Justine (Brittany Finamore) as a teenager. Justine is the six-year-old daughter who is saved at the end of Pulse 2 from the ghost of her crazy mother by her father. Raised by foster parents in a shantytown refugee camp set up in Texas, Justine is now a rebellious teenager (think 16 or 17, a decade, and not 13, the 7 years set up in the film itself). She comes upon an old laptop computer and uses it to chat to Adam (Rider Strong from Eli Roth's Cabin Fever). She instantly falls in love, and he convinces her to walk - in a manner slightly reminiscent of the heroes of Stephen King's The Stand - through the postapocalyptic landscape to see him in the city. Along the way, she comes upon a crazed cotton grower who lives by himself and then a crazed tech guy from Pulse 2 who also lives by himself.
And there you have it. Pulse 3 feels a little like the Pulse franchise with a hint of Twilight thrown in for good measure. Is it any good? Well, I can honestly say that this is an improvement over Pulse 2, if only because the acting is a bit better, but that's about all.
Pulse 3 suffers from a lot of the impediments that made Pulse 2 such a disaster. The most obvious setback is the movie's frequent use of green screen technology to insert actors into landscapes. It looks fake - really fake - and destroys any illusion of reality the movie tries to create (the same was true for Pulse 2). The second setback is the movie's clear limited budget. It would seem that if Soisson were given the budget of both films to create one Pulse sequel, the results would maybe have been better than these back-to-back turkeys.
But I guess the higher-ups wanted a Pulse trilogy, and that's what horror fans get, whether they wanted it or not. I'll give credit to Soisson for at least giving Pulse 3 an ending that is clearly defined and resolves the Pulse storyline with finality, even if that ending is far from satisfying.
Pulse 3 assumes your knowledge of the previous two film entries. If you've seen both, you might as well rent Pulse 3 to see how the storyline ends. If you haven't seen the Pulse movies, I'd recommend the first one alone; the sequels really aren't worth your time.
Pulse 3 is given an anamorphic widescreen presentation. Details are lacking, and a fair amount of video noise is present throughout. As noted in the review itself, the green screen technology utilized here often looks artificial, but this isn't a rap on the video presentation itself.
An English language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the sole audio option. It does its job, with dialogue always clear, but the mix itself is a little lifeless. Optional subtitles are available in Spanish and English for the Hearing Impaired.
A feature-length audio commentary is the most notable extra on this disc. Writer / director Joel Soisson, producer Mike Leahy, actress Brittany Finamore, and editor Kirk Morri are the four participants. Soisson and Leahy tend to dominate the commentary, but it's relaxed and informative all around. Some much deserved negative criticism must have already been launched against Pulse 2 during the recording of this commentary, as Soisson acknowledges it early in the track. And I will admit that it's refreshing to hear a contemporary filmmaker actually be self-critical of his own work in one of these commentaries, especially since commentary tracks stereotypically involve a lot of self-congratulatory praise.
A Pulse 3 Behind-the-Scenes featurette (8:27) offers the typical brief overview of the movie. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Trailers precede the main menu for Pulse and Pulse 2 (big surprise), as well as Feast, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds, Wizard of Gore, and George Romero's Diary of the Dead. No link exists to these trailers in the menu system itself.
Pulse 3 infuses the horror film franchise with teenage angst. The results are a slight improvement over Pulse 2, but that's faint praise. Only die-hard fans will want to see this conclusion to the trilogy. Rent it.