Pulse 3 (2008)
Brittany Renee Finamore (Justine), Rider Strong (Adam), Thomas Merdis (Caleb Wilkie), Noureen DeWulf (Salwa), Todd Giebenhain (Man With a Plan)
“Remember, these things, the “ghosts” if you will, they’re just figments of electromagnetic transmission. That’s all. Glorified radio waves inseparable from their mode of delivery. So it stands to reason, or fact, or conjecture, or whatever you wanna call it, if you could disrupt all forms of electromagnetic transmission all at once, our little bogies out there would be impeded to say the least. And if that disruption were big enough, very big, extremely so… and this is where it gets a bit ugly… you could wipe them out entirely. That’s right, an electromagnetic pulse, an EMP delivered across an area wide enough to ensure there’s no possible escape” – Man With a Plan
Watching Pulse 3 has really put Pulse 2 in context for me, it’s not so much a movie as it is an hour-and-a-half long prologue to Pulse 3. Our opening deals with Adam (Rider Strong) and his live-in girlfriend Salwa (Noureen DeWulf) who he has never met. See, he lives in Oklahoma and she in Cairo, and they “live together” via a series of monitors and webcams set up around their homes. Naturally the whole ghosts from the machine thing happens and things go to shit as Adam is forced to watch, via videocall, as his girlfriend commits suicide. 7 years pass.
We pick up in a refugee shanty town where a teacher is telling a group of kids about The Amish and that technology is evil. Justine (now played by Brittany Renee Finamore) is a rebellious teen chafing at the bit over the constraints of her life among the survivors. One night she finds an old laptop in a ruined car and plugs it in. She meets Adam, who is apparently alive in Houston. They hit it off and he encourages her to come see him.
Justine sets off on an adventure, stopping off at a farm house were an elder black cotton farmer Black Snake Moans her to a radiator and tries to use her computer to summon his dead wife. The wife ghost appears with the ghost of a record player, she then picks up the ghost of a shotgun and blows the ghost of her brains out (spilling living-person blood all over the wall for some reason), then she just keeps doing it, blowing off larger and larger chunks of her head each time and it goes from tragic to hilarious by probably the third time. She rescues Justine and tells her to go find Adam because time is running out.
Justine makes it to the address Adam told her to find our old buddy Ziegler (Todd Giebenhain), no longer wearing his red outfit and not aged a day in seven years, having set himself up a fortress in the top two floors of a building. He has come into contact with a high-ranking military officer and plans to fire nuclear missiles to cause an EMP that will disrupt the signal for good. Here’s where things get spoilery so skip past the next picture if you don’t’ want to know. So, as Ziegler states in his plan, the missiles wouldn’t really do too much damage to the world since the altitude required for the effect he wants means that the radiation would stay in the jet-stream and the whole “the ghosts are nice now” theory is such horseshit, the only person they aren’t hurting is Justine.
After Justine causes Ziegler’s death, she uses a program he wrote that can restore life to the ghosts. And surprise surprise, Adam is actually a scumbag who lived selfishly and killed others to survive. I don’t know why Justine feels that is a good reason to destroy the means of bringing ghosts back when she could easily use it to restore her parents, but whatever. And then the nukes launch anyway and all the ghosts die and it’s treated as a good thing. So I ask you, why does the movie still treat Ziegler as a villain? He’s crazy but his plan is sound.
Pulse 3 completely drops the horror angle. We’re in solid post-apocalypse territory now, the ghosts are just around and pose very little threat unless summoned. I mean, Justine’s refugee camp has WiFi, so if the ghosts wanted to get to them they easily could. They just kind of coexist now with humanity mostly just making things worse for itself. I do appreciate how in every single Pulse movie, Ziegler (or The Grad Student in the case of Kairo) serves as our Greek chorus and lets us know what’s up this time around.
The green screen effect is still awful but it’s used a lot more sparingly here, apparently Soisson saved his budget for sets for the better of the two movies. As before, the special effects look good. Another thing Soisson saved over for the third chapter is all the good actors. Todd Giebenhain is still the shining star but all the rest of the cast are at least competent and generally very good. Brittany Finamore and Rider Strong are admirable and the back-and-forth between them in narration (as a transcript of their IM conversations) has an easygoing chemistry that kind of reminded me of Her.
The writing is the strongest it has been in the trilogy, there are a few inconsistencies and plot-holes and it all kind of falls apart at the end as there is reversal after reversal after reversal, but it is largely a very good movie from a storyline perspective. Where Pulse 2 left me thinking “this isn’t so bad”, Pulse 3 actually impressed me. It toys with the “chosen one” mythology with everyone in the movie basically using her for their own ends and pretending it’s the right thing to go and explores Justine’s head-space following the events of the second movie. Of course I could probably cut the two movies together into an 100-minute movie that works better, both movies have a good chunk of padding.
I dreaded watching the Pulse sequels but they were surprisingly competent and adequate; Pulse 3 may be Soisson’s strongest script. I’m overselling this a bit, this is still a cheapo direct-to-video horror sequel developed by a home video arm of Dimension films, but if you’ve sat through your share of cash-in sequels to stuff like Hellraiser, Pumpkinhead, or Species then you’ll find these movies to be a cut above what you’re used to.
NEXT TIME ON DOOMSDAY REELS
“You’re making my beer curdle.”
Discuss this and other Doomsday Reels columns in the forum.