“Pulse,” yet another Americanized version of a Japanese horror flick, is extremely high concept — and trying very hard to be About Something.
It’s intended as an indictment of our overdependence on communications devices, but the premise is out-of-this-world unbelievable. A computer hacker unleashes a wireless signal that’s pure evil — that sucks the life out of everyone who comes into contact with it, prompting mass suicides and urban chaos.
Its grotesque, quasi-human images come in jumpy blips and flashes, similar to those in the Japanese-inspired “Ring” movies. They can come right at you through the screen, and they even know how to use printers and Web cams!
Wireless laptops can trigger them, cell phones — you name it, anything with a signal. Only by hiding in a dead zone can anyone hope to live. (Deep, huh?)
But you do have to give “Pulse” some credit: The film is incredibly intense and moody, with characters and dialogue that are far more grounded in reality than those of most frightfests (maybe that’s because horror master Wes Craven co-wrote the script, based on Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original “Kairo”). Jim Sonzero directed the movie, which wasn’t screened for critics before opening day, in varying shades of metallic green and gray.
“Veronica Mars” star Kristen Bell and Ian Somerhalder are among the college students fighting to survive in a paranoid world (specifically Columbus, Ohio) that ultimately resembles the apocalyptic setting you’d see in a zombie movie. Bell, who stars as Mattie, watches her boyfriend succumb to this mysterious force, then tracks down Somerhalder’s Dexter, who bought the villainous computer.
As previous computer-themed thrillers like “The Net” and “Firewall” have shown, it’s hard to build suspense through key strokes and letters and numbers on a screen. But the supernatural wi-fi element of “Pulse” allows our attractive young characters to become potential victims anywhere they go. It’s just that easy!
R&B singer Christina Milian, in an array of belly-baring tops, co-stars as Mattie’s roommate, with Rick Gonzalez and Samm Levine playing the friends who investigate the electronic evil and learn more than they’d hoped.
For all of them, asking the question “Can you hear me now?” elicits an answer other than “good.”