Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sarah Marshall vs. The Ghosts in The Machines, or Thoughts on Kristen Bell in Pulse

Pulse (2006) is an adaptation of the Japanese J-horror film Kairo (2001), and in some instances, like Ringu (1998) and Ju-on (2002,) a shot for shot remake.  I don’t want to get into a discussion about how Americans are too lazy to read subtitles, or the relative merits of replacing a cute brown-eyed, black haired Japanese girl with a cute blue-eyed, blonde haired American girl.  Instead let’s focus on the excellent screenplay by horror icon Wes Craven and Kristen Bell, aka Veronica Mars, as the aforementioned blue-eyed, blonde haired American girl. 
Pulse explores the hidden dangers of a 2006, pre-smart phone, flip phone Internet.  It’s far more prescient than Cell (2016) and a far more compelling story, though the idea of haunted computers, a ghost virus, or a connection to the spirit world through the magic of electricity is nothing new.  Much like the old cathode ray TV in the original Poltergeist (1982) or the gravity drive in Event Horizon (1997), filmmakers have exploited our collective fears and addiction to mass media and technology as a supernatural doorway.
Kristen Bell, most famous at the time for playing a sassy and intrepid high school girl investigating crime, plays a sassy and intrepid college coed investigating her ex-boyfriend’s suicide and the reason why his laptop keeps sending her texts from beyond the grave.  It’s not long before that haunted virus spreads to more computers and flip phones and inspiring random suicides across campus.  Moody, atmospheric and haunting in the most literal sense, Pulse suffers from the usual PG-13 complaints of not being scary enough, presumably to sell more tickets to that Veronica Mars fan base.
Japanese ghost stories are innovative in the sense that the ghosts haunt people, not places.  There’s nowhere you can run once they pick you, and from a filmmaker’s perspective the premise creates a built-in sequel.  Pulse inspired two sequels shot back-to-back and direct to video, Pulse 2: Afterlife and Pulse 3: Invasion (2008).

Watch out for a cameo by Grima Wormtongue aka Brad Dourif, who was also the voice of Chucky and starred in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Blue Velvet (1986) and Alien: Resurrection (1997) as a paranoid eavesdropper in a diner that supplies valuable exposition.



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.