Ghosts in the Internet trigger the Apocalypse in “Pulse,” a dumbed-down remake of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s disturbingly abstract Japanese horror film. Though planned as a project for Wes Craven (who now has co-scripter credit with Ray Wright), pic is helmed by relative newcomer Jim Sonzero, who displays only the slightest grasp of what it takes to scare auds. Audiences, however, may be scared away from screens based on early poor word of mouth, leaving generally ghostly opening frame B.O. Ancillary will rescue this latest Craven-Dimension item from oblivion.
“Pulse” marks the latest and least successful attempt to Americanize a fundamentally Japanese horror movie subgenre. While the originals (Kurosawa’s film, the “Ringu” series and/or “Dark Water”) carry direct ties from the ancient Nippon tradition of ghost myths, the Yank redos feel like crass opportunities to cash in on someone else’s good idea.
That’s certainly the case here, where eerily translucent and sometimes creepily digitized ghosts (in TV sets, computers, bedroom closets) emerge to wreak havoc.
University computer hacker Josh (Jonathan Tucker) confronts a ghoulish white creature while working in the campus library that unfortunately looks far too much like the white critters stalking the female cavers in “The Descent.”
When on-again-off-again g.f. Mattie (Kristen Bell) goes to his pad, Josh hangs himself.
The creepy B&W web images that Josh received over his computer now start appearing on Mattie’s computer and on the computers of pals Stone (Rick Gonzalez), Tim (Sam Levine) and Mattie’s roomie Isabell (Christina Milian).
Stone volunteers to check out Josh’s hacking work, which naturally means that he’s the next victim. His body is taken over (a la “The X-Files”) by a black inky substance that turns him to ash.
Unlike Kurosawa’s storytelling choices, which stressed a distended grasp of time and an atmospheric sense of dread that couldn’t quite be pinned down, the new “Pulse” takes everything literally and is most concerned with turning Mattie into a blonde hottie in distress.
When Dexter (Ian Somerhalder) is awkwardly introduced as the unlucky recipient of Josh’s computer, Mattie has a new partner to help her unravel the mystery.
Although the ultimate cause of the ghost invasion is blamed on electronic devices, the neo-Luddite theme that one should be frightened by what comes over the Web will strike most of pic’s target aud as phony scare tactics. Not even a few genuinely spectacular images of mass Apocalypse make up for the pure thematic silliness.
Cast of largely young tube thesps works up a sweat in the curiously grimy setting but none do more than the basic strokes. Mark Plummer’s desaturated lensing verges on black-and-white, but even this element imitates such recent remakes as the Walter Salles-directed “Dark Water.”
Rumbling from the soundtrack is as scary as pic gets, while creature effects quickly grow boring and repetitive. Romania provided primary locations, with additional Stateside production work.