Yet another Japanese horror remake, in which American advertising director Jim Sonzero fails to connect with the apocalyptic imagery and deeper social themes of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 original, ‘Kairo’. Permeated with a slow-burning dread, Kurosawa’s cautionary tale used the tropes of dystopian SF and supernatural horror to explore a world in which email, texts and instant messaging have replaced communication and social cohesion with alienation and suicidal loneliness. ‘Pulse’ attempts the same, but is merely a scratchy echo of the original. Following her boyfriend’s suicide, psychology student Mattie (Kristen Bell) is drawn into a nightmarish virtual world of virus-infected computers, disturbing webcam images and soul-sucking spectres.
An epidemic of spiritual lethargy and suicide ensues, as voracious dead souls meld with the wi-fi world and infect any human linked to it. For all its superficial slickness, Sonzero’s 90-minute version feels longer than the two-hour original, its turgid pacing and lazy generic ticks inducing the same boredom and lethargy as the onscreen virus. As the ghosts suck the life out of their victims, the audience suffers the same fate.