Hollywood is so enamoured of Japanese horror movies that they've burned through American remakes of "The Ring" and "The Grudge," and are now scraping the bottom of the sake cup. "Pulse" is the remake of a 2001 Japanese film that was derivative and pokey even before Hollywood got its hands on it.
Horror maven Wes "Scream" Craven, brought in to adapt the script, has turned the original, "Kairo," into a "Night of the Internet Dead." It doesn't work.
Kristen Bell of TV's "Veronica Mars" brings nothing but a face suitable for close-ups to Mattie, the woman whose boyfriend's wandering in MySpace has gotten him sucked into cyberspace.
Christina Milian ("Be Cool") is Mattie's hip black pal -- i.e., a potential second act victim. And Ian Somerhalder ("Lost") is the tech-whiz who may put the electronic puzzle together.
Craven (who didn't direct; that was TV commercial alumnus Jim Sonzero) cooks up scenes to show the text-message generation blitzing each other in bars or late at night when they're supposed to be doing homework. That's the cleverest stuff in this, a commentary on a generation so wired it is vulnerable to anything anybody chooses to upload.
The effects, with death attacking through spectral digital ghosts, are top drawer. But the only difference between this and "Stay Alive" is that it's about a virus, not a game, and the only difference between this and "The Ring" is that it's a virus, not a videotape.
And the acting is so flat that when veteran weirdo Brad Dourif shows up and chews the scenery with predictions of Armageddon, it's both the laugh it was intended to be and the first time "Pulse" shows a pulse.
'Pulse'Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times