The Bloody Truth: “Pulse”


Every week, Calhoun Kersten looks deeper into the endless catalog of horror cinema in The Bloody Truth.

“It’s a metaphor for our addiction to technology.”
“It’s a metaphor for a crap movie.”

With those two lines, Forgetting Sarah Marshall summed up, pretty succinctly, the modern horror audience’s towards 2006’s J-horror remake Pulse. Yes, it was great to see that star Kristen Bell was in on the joke, even if she had moved on to bigger and brighter things since the release of Pulse just two years prior, but the best part of it? Pulse is a 90-minute movie and its only sense of cultural importance can be summed up in an eight-word sentence.

Maybe that’s what makes Pulse so unbearable to watch; another fruitless point said unbearably long. Yes, people use cellphones and laptops too much. Your point being? Pulse doesn’t propose some grand solution or a means to fix our fractured society. It just says, “yeah, this is kinduva problem…” Great point, Pulse. I had never considered that except for during every hackneyed news piece on the nightly news. Yes, by 2006, America was finally willing to admit that technology was starting to become more of a hindrance than a help.

The only problem? Look where we are now. iPods are no longer just a means to play music. You can surf the internet or take pictures. Granted, especially with supernatural horror films, the suspension of disbelief is a necessary element. No one actually expects ghosts to come out of their cell phones or whatever the hell Pulse is actually about. Everybody knows that. Still, the film has a duty to speak to the dominant fears of the time that produces in. Lowest common denominator scares are a necessary element of every modern horror film.

Still, let’s look at the progression of Pulse. As previously stated, Pulse was originally made as a Japanese film in 2001. Japan has always been a leader in technological innovation and, subsequently, technological reliance. Pulse, as an American incarnation, was not remade until 2006. Now, let’s consider the present. Here we are in 2013, where meals are photographed for the amusement (or tedium) of friends and our intelligence is limited to 140 characters.

No, this isn’t a self-important tirade against the evils of technology. I Instagram a picture of my dog at least once a day, and you can find me on most social media platforms. This merely serves as a reminder that- well, things haven’t really changed. That’s not fair, actually. Things have changed, drastically. If anything, they’re worse now.Not even a full seven years after its release, Pulse is a pleasant reminder of how technologically naïve we once were. Throughout the course of the film, not a single person checks in to FourSquare which, if you think about it, would make tracking down and killing people a whole lot easier for modern mechanized ghosts. Why? It hadn’t been invented yet. Furthermore, our obsession with it hadn’t been formed yet.

The movie is a 21st century parable about the dangers of technology. If it was intended as a “scare your audience straight” tactic it worked- well, it worked about as well as those “scare your audience straight” heterosexual conversion seminars have. It hasn’t done anything to even make people question their use of technology. In fact, as of 2013, Pulse just seems like a delightfully archaic pop culture artifact; a warning to audiences with no understanding of how bad the reliance on modern technology could get.