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"PULSE"
(2004) (Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Moderate Heavy Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor Heavy Extreme None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Moderate Minor Moderate Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
A group of college students discovers a website that promises users they can contact the dead and must deal with the repercussions when they do so.
PLOT:
Mattie Webber (KRISTEN BELL) is an earnest psych major at an unnamed college in an unnamed city (shot in L.A. and Bucharest, Romania). She and her best friends -- Izzie (CHRISINA MILIAN), Stone (RICK GONZALEZ), and Tim (SAMM LEVINE) -- attend classes on the "pathological mind," keep in contact by cell phone, and pirate music and movies off the internet, wholly dependent on their machines.

When Mattie's boyfriend Josh (JONATHAN TUCKER) hangs himself, Mattie at first tries to "move on," then determines to know why, as she believes she "missed the cues." Though her psychiatrist (RON RIFKIN) insists that she must face her fears and conduct "self-analysis" to become healthy, Mattie starts to believe that Josh was attacked by ghosts in the machine. At first they appear as the scary figures did in The Ring, usually appearing on computer monitors, but soon coming off the screen (Josh is attacked by a ghost in the library stacks, in a scary opening scene that sets the film's literally dark tone and throbbing soundtrack). They can soon appear via any electronic device, even with computers unplugged.

Mattie meets Dexter (IAN SOMERHALDER), who has bought Josh's computer and knows his way around a hard drive. Together, they find evidence of ghosts (victims who still live as shadows or ghosts inside "the system"), as well as the seeming cause of the attacks -- a virus they hope to fight with a counter-virus developed by Josh before he died. At the same time, Mattie's friends are killed terribly, swallowed up or dissolved, dissipating into (poorly CGI-ed) ash, and everyone else on the planet (according to brief television reports) are falling victim to the "crisis." Though most deaths occur off screen, those on screen (including Izzie and Stone) are grisly.

Eventually, Dexter and Mattie find the computer server on campus and upload the counter--virus. Still, the forces are too strong, and so the surviving humans drive off into a post-apocalyptic horizon.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
They might, if they're interested in electronic games and gadgets, or Japanese horror movies, or even Veronica Mars, the TV series starring Kristen Bell.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For intense sequences of sci-fi terror, disturbing images, language, sensuality and thematic material.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • KRISTEN BELL plays Mattie Webber, a college student whose boyfriend commits suicide. She seeks the cause, consults with a psychiatrist, and discovers the ghosts haunting electronic devices and killing her friends. She is intrepid, but eventually overwhelmed by the power of the ghosts.
  • IAN SOMERHALDER plays Dexter McCarthy, who helps Mattie look for a remedy for the murderous ghosts.
  • CHRISTINA MILIAN plays Mattie's roommate who wears midriff-baring tops.
  • RICK GONZALEZ plays Stone, Mattie's friend, attacked by the ghosts when he tries to turn off Josh's computer.
  • JONATHAN TUCKER plays Josh, who hangs himself while Mattie is in his apartment.
  • SAMM LEVINE plays Tim, another friend of Mattie and Josh's who becomes fearful of the ghosts, taping his entire room with red industrial tape.
  • RON RIFKIN plays Dr. Waterson, who advises Mattie that what she believes is not real.
  • JOSEPH GATT plays the "Dark Figure," the primary ghost who materializes/emerges from computer screens and sucks the life out of his victims.
  • OCTAVIA L. SPENCER is Josh's landlady, who sells his computer to Dexter, thus involving him in the plot.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this horror film that is rated PG-13. Profanity consists of at least 1 "f" word, while other expletives and colorful phrases are uttered. Some sexually related dialogue is present, some women wear revealing attire and a sexual encounter occurs off-screen, while another couple briefly fools around.

    Violence includes ghosts killing characters by sucking the life out of them, suicides occur off-screen, and some bloody results are present, as are visuals of supernaturally caused black stains on faces. Those scenes, other moments of peril, and various visuals may be unsettling, suspenseful or even scary to some viewers, while the jump scenes may also startle. Some characters drink and/or smoke, characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, and thematic elements include suicide and death.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • At a bar, the four friends drink beers.
  • Beer bottles appear on the bedroom table when Izzie stays at young man's apartment.
  • Dexter drinks a beer while he works on the computer.
  • A Goth girl refers to "booze" in a diner customer's coffee.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • When ghosts "suck" their victims, the victims develop black stains on their bodies, usually on the face and neck.
  • Mattie finds a roach crawling on Josh's sink and maggots in the refrigerator. When Josh appears, he has a black stain spread over his face and neck.
  • Stone has the black marks on his wrist and arm.
  • Izzie has black on her eye, cheek, and neck.
  • Matt and Dexter pass a black splotch on a hallway wall (a person has been sucked up).
  • Following an encounter with a ghost, Mattie has a cut on her forehead visible for the rest of the film.
  • Following a fight with a ghost, Mattie and Dexter both have blood on their faces and they look dazed.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Izzie arrives late to class after a night out and texts to Mattie "Wake me when it's over."
  • Outside class, students talk on cell phones, and Stone shows his pirated CDs, saying that Josh fixed it so he'd get free minutes on his cell.
  • Angry when she's at the doctor's following Josh's death, Mattie cries and says, "F*ck."
  • A Goth girl yells at an older man in a diner.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence," "Blood/Gore" and "Jump Scenes" may be unsettling, suspenseful or scary to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • Throughout the movie, scratchy soundtrack effects sound like static, and the film achieves a "dirty" look consistently, with a bluish lighting that makes all scenes, including those set outdoors, dark.
  • Josh enters a library through the security gate and metal detector. He appears nervous enough that the guard asks if he's "okay."
  • In the stacks, the camera tracks Josh as he looks for Ziegler. The library is very dark and frightening music plays throughout the scene.
  • A ghost jumps out at Josh and seems to "suck" his life out, with blurry, scratchy imagery and loud scary music occurring.
  • Mattie rides the subway to Josh's apartment, and the window is covered with red tape. Long, ominous, dark shots show her approach outside and in the hallway.
  • At Josh's apartment, Mattie hears a cat growl, opens a closet, and finds a starving cat, dying (it's obviously animatronic).
  • Stone says he'll go turn off Josh's computer, because they keep getting messages that say "helpme" (one word) from Josh's instant message address (Stone is scared).
  • Stone goes to Josh's apartment, and we see the same dark hallway and same dark apartment. When Mattie goes to Josh's apartment, we see the same dark hallway and hear the same spooky music.
  • Dexter watches a series of scary images of pale people looking afraid; one man wears a bag on his head; a computer screen reads: "Do you want to meet a ghost?"; one man sits in a corner, cowering against a wall; another holds a gun to his head.
  • Mattie goes to Dexter's apartment to watch the computer monitor and see the fearful ghosts. She becomes scared and asks Dexter to turn it off. He suggests there's a connection between the images and the suicide.
  • On the bus, Mattie sees her psych teacher outside, trying to be hit by the bus (it has to swerve abruptly around him, he stares at Mattie through the window).
  • In the tub, Mattie falls asleep and dreams of scary buildings, Josh on a rooftop, wind, a kiss with Josh, a couple of jump shots showing close-ups of Josh looking pale, all accompanied by very scary music. She sees the ghost's face under the tub water, screams, and finds a sponge instead.
  • Tim sees a message that reads "Do you want to meet a ghost?" and then sees Stone inside his screen.
  • Dr. Waterson is in his dark office when the computer screen shows a young woman (he has her photo in a frame). The bald ghost appears and approaches the doctor, and after a scary sound, the camera cuts away, implying Waterson is killed.
  • Mattie wakes late at night, her computer screen asks, "Do you want to meet a ghost?" and she unplugs it. Her printer spits out a series of images that, when put together, make a face.
  • Tim goes to see Stone. The door is open, he sees a ghost version of Stone who says, "I don't want to die," and then dissolves into a black spot on the wall. Tim runs away.
  • Tim starts putting red tape on his windows and door. He runs out of tape and then sees an eye of the ghost.
  • In a diner, Mattie and Dexter discuss the case and a customer at the counter (played by wild-eyed Brad Dourif) turns around and rants at them: "The whole freakin' city is going insane." A Goth girl in the corner says it's because he puts "booze" in his coffee (she's at a long, wide, blurry angle, so she looks frightening, as he does).
  • A TV reporter describes the computer virus that's "shutting down" machines everywhere; long shots of empty campus are spooky.
  • In the laundry room, the fluorescent light flickers and laundry falls out of dryer. Izzie looks afraid, and the ghost comes out of the dryer, unfolding multiple limbs (more than he should have). The ghost "sucks" out Izzie's life, she screams and so does the ghost.
  • In class, Mattie is one of only five students in a large lecture hall.
  • In the bathroom, Mattie sits in a stall. She hears drips of faucets, goes to the mirror, hears a noise and tells the blurry figure she sees, "You're not real." She approaches it anyway and sees an eye in the stall, screams and runs away.
  • At home, Mattie hears a TV report that "The crisis appears to be spreading," and the TV shuts down mid-sentence.
  • Tim calls Mattie and appears on computer screen, saying, "I just wanted to see you." He's on screens in two different rooms.
  • Mattie finds Izzie in her bed, hiding under the covers. She has a black eye and the black stain down her neck. Izzie says, "Do you know what dying tastes like? Metal. You don't want to breathe." Mattie asks, "What do they want?" Izzie answers, "They want what they don't have. They want life."
  • Mattie calls 911, but we see empty offices, and no one to answer emergency calls.
  • Izzie's black eye is prominent in a shot just before she dissolves into ash.
  • Dexter picks up Mattie in his car; they drive through the city talking. They suddenly crash the car into another car (a loud and violent crash), and Mattie looks in other driver's seat, only to find a black spot suggesting the driver has been sucked up.
  • Mattie and Dexter run in the street, and encounter a man and his wife. The man has a gun, and his wife tries to calm him: "They're just kids." The woman tells them they need to find a "dead zone," where there's no wi-fi and no cell signal, to escape the ghosts.
  • Mattie and Dexter run for the Computer Center basement through dark hallways; when he's blocked by twin child ghosts. She goes down in an elevator alone, and it creaks and goes dark. She finally reaches the basement where there's water on the floor, pipes hanging from the ceiling. This is accompanied by a dark, throbbing sound on soundtrack, along with more scary music.
  • Mattie finds the right computer and screen, but the ghost comes at her and she resists, barely. She sees Josh's ghost, approaches him, and suddenly a thousand hands come at her. The camera pulls out to show the scope, and she screams.
  • Dexter uploads the virus and the system shuts down and then reboots as fluorescent lights flicker and we hear more throbbing sounds. The ghost comes toward Dexter and he runs away.
  • Mattie and Dexter run out of the Computer center and look up to see hundreds of ghosts on the roof.
  • A plane on fire flies behind Mattie and Dexter and crashes just behind the building; car alarms go off everywhere.
  • As Mattie and Dexter drive off in a pickup truck, a shadow takes up part of the frame as it watches them drive off.
  • At night, the truck is pulled over and Mattie and Dexter sleep inside. An Army announcement on the radio tells them to find a dead zone. The cell phone shows a signal and ghosts reach inside the cab to grab at them violently. Dexter drives off, and the ghost eventually lets go. They figure they've lost their signal, Mattie throws her cell phone out the window. Both have blood on their faces and they look dazed.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Josh hangs himself; and we later see the cord he used still hanging from the ceiling.
  • One of the ghosts on screen holds a gun to his head.
  • A man on the street waves a gun at Dexter.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Wake me when it's over," "Where the hell is everybody?" "Freakin,'" and "Bitch."
  • Izzie wears midriff-revealing tops and other revealing clothing.
  • Mattie doesn't call her mother back.
  • The kids spend lots of time in front of their computer screens.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • An old man with a book cart appears in wide-angled close-up on the rickety-sounding elevator to the library, with Josh. An abrupt close-up of his craggy face provides a mild jump shot.
  • A ghost jumps out at Josh and seems to "suck" his life out, with blurry, scratchy imagery and loud scary music.
  • In Josh's apartment, Mattie discovers maggots in the fridge and a dying cat in the closet, both staged as jumps.
  • In Josh's apartment, Stone sees a woman ghost in a black dress. He backs away, looks under the bed, then looks up and she's suddenly hovering over him.
  • In the bathroom, Mattie sits in a stall. She hears drips of faucets, goes to the mirror, hears a noise and tells the blurry figure she sees, "You're not real." She approaches it anyway and sees an eye in the stall, screams and runs away.
  • A person suddenly dissolves into a black spot on the wall.
  • Mattie and Dexter run in the street, and suddenly meet a man and his wife. The man has a gun, and appears in an abrupt cut.
  • While Mattie and Dexter sleep in truck, ghosts suddenly reach inside the cab to grab at them.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • An extreme amount of scary music occurs throughout the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 1 "f" word, 6 "s" words, 2 asses, 2 damns, 1 hell and 1 use of "G-damn."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • At a bar, the four friends talk about porn sites advertising "horny co-eds," "granny trannies," and "Japanese girls in bondage." Mattie identifies herself as a "shrink in training" and chastises her friends for looking at these websites.
  • Stone and Tim see a handsome young man pictured on a cell phone and call him "gay."
  • Izzie gets out of bed next to another boy. She's wearing a bra and panties, and dons her jeans. Beer bottles appear on the bedroom table and she deletes her website/contact info from his computer, suggesting their sexual activity did not impress her.
  • We see flashbacks to Mattie in bed with Josh. They kiss, his hand is on her bare back, but we don't see any other nudity. She remembers his voice saying, "Something is wrong with me."
  • Izzie wears low cut jeans (showing skin close to her butt) and midriff-baring shirt, tied up.
  • In the cafeteria, Izzie wears an off-the-shoulders top.
  • Mattie takes a bath, but we only see her face and shoulder.
  • Mattie looks in the mirror, thinks she sees black on her shoulder (we don't see it), and takes off her shirt (we see her in her bra before she puts on another shirt).
  • SMOKING
  • Dexter smokes three times, Ziegler smokes once and background characters smoke a couple of times. Several shots also show heaping ashtrays or close-ups of cigarette butts.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Mattie's mother calls and Mattie doesn't pick up.
  • Mattie's mother is on the machine (she says she's called three times), but Mattie doesn't call her back.
  • Mattie finally calls her mother after she finds Josh dead. She cries, but speaks only to her mother's answering machine.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Suicide and depression.
  • Alienation brought on by use of electronic communication.
  • Psychiatry and therapy as a means to work through personal pain.
  • Ghosts.
  • VIOLENCE
  • In the library stacks, the camera tracks Josh as he looks for Ziegler. A ghost jumps out at him and seems to "suck" his life out.
  • Mattie follows Josh into another room and finds he has hung himself. We see close-ups of his face and his shoes, but not his whole body.
  • A man screams as a ghost "sucks" his life out, killing him.
  • A TV reporter remarks the "cluster of suicides" in the city.
  • A ghost appears and approaches a doctor. After a scary sound, the camera cuts away, implying he's been killed.
  • In the laundry room, a ghost comes out of the dryer, unfolding multiple limbs (more than he should have) and "sucks" out a character's life (she screams and so does ghost).
  • A person dissolves into a black spot on the wall..
  • Dexter picks up Mattie in his car; they drive through the city talking. They suddenly crash the car into another car (a loud and violent crash), and Mattie looks in other driver's seat, only to find a black spot suggesting the driver has been sucked up.
  • Mattie finds the right computer and screen, but the ghost comes at her and she resists, barely. She sees Josh's ghost, approaches him, and suddenly a thousand hands come at her. The camera pulls out to show the scope, and she screams.
  • The ghost comes toward Dexter but he runs away.
  • A plane on fire flies behind Mattie and Dexter and crashes just behind the building; car alarms go off everywhere.



  • Reviewed August 11, 2006 / Posted August 12, 2006

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