In the third, and supposedly final, installment in the Pulse trilogy of movies the world has shunned technology and learned to live in a world without any communications devices. A world, ironically, that would not have been able to view this straight-to-DVD release. Truthfully, they would have been better off.
Starring newcomer Brittany Finamor and Rider Strong (from Boy Meets World), the story takes place seven years after the first movie. Billions have died from the “plague” brought on, originally, by viewing the dead on the internet. Each new death only adds to the dead’s ability to reach those on the other side and suck the life force from their bodies. In desperation the survivors have left the cities and built ramshackle communities where they teach their children to fear all technology. Each township brutally punishes anyone reckless enough to flirt with any devices discovered strewn about. Of course, young Justine who, like any teenager, feels misunderstood and repressed by her adoptive parents and doesn’t believe that the danger applies to her. So, when she discovers a working laptop in an abandoned car she immediately finds a way to charge it and sneaks out in the middle of the night to turn it on. Amazingly, she instantly connects to a Wi-Fi network and gets an instant message so that she can start typing and chatting like she’s been using a computer all her life.
The man she strikes up a conversation with turns out to be a young man named Adam, who was introduced in the very beginning of the film. The opening sequences show him talking, via a multitude of webcams and flat panel screens all over his apartment, to a young woman on the other side of the world. The woman eventually succumbs to the plague and throws herself from the top of a building while the Adam observes the event from the camera on her cell phone.
Adam makes Justine feel confident and sure of herself, more mature and infinitely less responsible. This is why she packs the freshly charged laptop into a backpack and sets out on a journey to the city so that she can meet her imaginary boyfriend. Along the way she meets a creepy cast of survivors who have all lost someone close to them, and apparently their minds, to the mysterious plague. All of them have a small piece to add to the viewer’s understanding of what’s happening… but never why.
Inevitably Justine makes it to the city where she finds fully charged cell phones lying all over the place. The dead seem to prefer contacting her, and leading her around, using text messages. Including, but not limited to, her dead mother who, in a plague induced fugue, attempted to kill young Justine seven years earlier.
In the original Pulse the story, though a trifle confusing, didn’t need to be particularly complex because the action and special effects were very well done and there was a seriously intense intrigue that made the viewer feel powerless to stop. It played perfectly on people’s inability to understand how technology works and paranormal fears. Much like the fear of indigenous tribes who believe that taking a picture steals one’s soul so, too, do computers and cell phones, apparently.
The mistakes that the third movie makes aren’t too difficult to spot because it begins making them immediately after the opening sequence is finished. The community where Justine lives is peopled, almost entirely, by either sadistic bullies or hapless victims. While it’s possible to believe that the trauma of a worldwide plague would make people a little skittish it appears that the only ones to survive are just barely more than animals. That is, all except for Justine and her online love interest. Justine throws aside all the warnings from her parents and teacher and sets out on her own… only to prove that they were all right.
It would be easy to point out how pointless and implausible the final twenty minutes of the film are and ruin the feeble surprises that lead nowhere. However, for those who would rather try to get frightened by watching bad green screen and listening to the long-winded ravings of a couple of pathetic lunatics, who are barely old enough to drink, it wouldn’t be right. It is fair to point out that it would be almost as good, or just as bad, to find a spoiler site and read the story. In the end, it basically amounts to the same thing and you’ll save yourself the twenty bucks the DVD retails for.
Joel Soisson (director) / Joel Soisson (screenplay)
CAST: Noureen DeWulf … Salwa
Rider Strong … Adam
Jackie Arnold … Zach
Brittany Renee Finamore … Justine
Georgina Rylance … Michelle
William Prael … Cliff
Laura Cayouette … Amy