Pulse 3 Review
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Writer/Director Joel Soisson prefers to describe Pulse 3 as the third act in a trilogy rather than a stand-alone sequel. While it’s not without precedent that the third act can make up for some of the weaknesses of the prior two (Saw 3), more often than not, it wrings out just a little more juice from a theme that’s already been run dry (Scream 3). Predictably, this franchise firmly establishes itself in the latter category.

First, a brief recap of what’s gone before. In Pulse, an inferior remake of the Japanese horror film Kairo, a group of college students discover that ghosts can attack them through cell phone and wi-fi frequencies (or something like that—though none of the three films offer a coherent explanation of their own mythology). These ghosts are really, really mad, and they pretty much exist to scare people and suck their souls out, leaving them to commit suicide, get sucked through black goo into walls, or disintegrate.

Pulse 2: Afterlife, Soisson’s takeover of the series, follows a father and daughter as they try to escape the ghost-infested city, as well as their estranged and apparently dead wife/mother. Along the way, they meet an extremely irritating nut job who covers himself and his apartment in red tape because, as the first film never really explained, ghosts can’t go through red. In one of the trilogy’s few inspired moments, the second film ends with the father sending the daughter away to one of the last human compounds and offering himself up to the ghost of his wife as a sacrifice. Of course, five seconds after his wife forgives him, the ghost of his girlfriend finishes him off.

Pulse 3 picks up the daughter’s story. Justine (Brittany Finamore) is now 17 and living in a commune that emphasizes shared work and teaching children that the devil is in technology. Brooding and angst-filled as only 17-year-olds can be, Justine suddenly happens upon a miraculously still-functioning laptop. Ignoring the warnings about the devil and her own history of being chased by ghosts, she powers it up and immediately finds herself being chatted up on an instant messaging system. Apparently, there’s still a boy alive and well in Houston. So, laptop in hand, Justine sets off to meet her brand-new Internet crush in a ghost-infested city many miles away.

And yes, things just get worse from there, especially after the idiot with the red tape shows up again with a plan to save the world. But even if the plan weren’t incredibly dumb, it wouldn’t have been left to a chain-smoking sociopath nitwit to figure out. There’s also a long interlude with a creepy farmer and his dead wife, as well as a “twist” ending that’s broadcast so far in advance that the fact that Justine doesn’t see it kind of makes us want the ghosts to make a quick snack out of her.

I know that this review has been incredibly brutal so far, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of things that Pulse 3 managed to get right. The emphasis in making the film, quickly evident in a scan of the accompanying making-of featurette, was entirely on the visuals. There are some nicely-done set pieces here that, in a better movie, would have much stronger impact. Soisson also, whether by design or the dictates of financing, shoots a great deal of Justine’s journey with the actress working against a green screen that’s filled in with whatever kind of landscape she happens to be crossing. The effect is to render a fairly banal scene, such as a teenager walking across a field, strange and unsettling.

Sadly, a few moments of clarity do not a film trilogy make. And, as it stands, the Pulse trilogy should immediately be relegated to the dustbin of cinematic history. If the twinning of ghostly afterlife and electronic existence interests you, do make an effort to rent Kairo. If you still have the urge to watch the American version, then let me save you some time. After all is said and done, Pulse 3 leaves us with this penetrating and mind-bogglingly inappropriate message: the Amish shall inherit the earth.

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