Doomsday Reels
Pulse 2: Afterlife (2008)



Joel Soisson

Karley Scott Collins (Justine), Jamie Bamber (Stephen), Georgina Rylance (Michelle), Boti Bliss (Marta), Lee Garlington (Aunt Carmen), Robin McGee (Hutch), Grant James (Uncle Pete), Todd Giebenhain (Man in Red/Thomas Ziegler)


“Imagine you’re out there floating in some black empty void and suddenly there’s a way back to this plain of existence, a way back to life. You’d grab onto it, wouldn’t you? Even if that life wasn’t your own? The problem in this little passion play, you’re still not alive and that’s gotta really- I mean that’s gotta really suck. To know that you made it all the way back only to find out beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you’re still fucking dead.” – Thomas Ziegler

So, it’s likely that if you even know that Pulse 2 exists, then you know it sucks. It’s likely that if you know that Pulse 2 sucks, it’s despite the fact that you haven’t even seen it. The sky is blue, the grass is green, Tapirs are weird, and Pulse 2 sucks; we don’t question these things, they just are.  I don’t think there’s a single nice word about this movie that exists on the internet, which puts me in kind of an awkward situation here because I watched it for the first time yesterday and I didn’t find it to be all that bad.

The story takes place an undetermined time after the first movie, likely only a few weeks, as a mysterious man wraps himself in red clothing and strolls out into the street.  Along the way he encounters a crying woman, a person melting into a puddle of black goo, and a ghost sucking out a woman’s soul who tries to take him but can’t since he’s clad all in red.

We open on Michelle (Georgina Rylance) waking up in front of her computer, her entire apartment is covered with ashes including the floor of her daughter’s bedroom, which also contains a pair of very sharp scissors.  She goes out looking for her daughter Justine (Karley Scott Collins), going to her aunt and uncle’s where her Aunt meets her at the door.  They talk about her uncle, who has locked himself in the bedroom despite the fact that the door doesn’t even have a lock, and then Michelle wanders out into the yard where a little girl is swinging on the swing set.  Michelle attempts to talk to the child or see her face, but the girl remains unresponsive and runs away when she tries to touch her.

Now Justine’s father Stephen (Jamie Bamber) kicks open Michelle’s door and searches the apartment, finding the same evidence that his ex-wife did earlier.  He goes out to the street and finds the same hooded girl that was in the swing earlier who does in fact turn out to be Justine.  As Justine and Stephen drive off, Michelle runs out into the street and in a shocking twist that is pretty easy to figure out she was Bruce Willis the whole time is a ghost.

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Stephen and Justine go to a cabin in the woods, along the way they’re stopped by a local militia that checks their arms and legs for the black bruises that those afflicted by the ghosts carry.  Justine is almost shot due to some dirt on her shoulder.  They make it back to the cabin and Stephen’s girlfriend Marta (Boti Bliss) shows up.  The movie clearly wants us to think Marta is a complete bitch but when she complains about how Stephen just left her in the city to go get his daughter, that she had to remind the militia that she was his girlfriend so they didn’t shoot her, and how he clearly cares nothing for her, I kinda feel like I should take her side here.  She quickly guesses that he wants her to fuck off so she takes off her panties and tries to seduce him.

Suddenly Stephen’s laptop computer flips on and logs into messenger, where the barrage of “Help Me” messages from Michelle pop up, followed by several demanding that he return her daughter.  Wife ghost attacks and gets Marta despite the fact that she has fair warning and ample time to get away but chooses to just stand there calling Stephen’s name.  Stephen and Justine drive off and the chubby mailman who almost shot the little girl earlier shows up to see Marta standing nude, covered in the black bruises, in front of a mirror.  She comes over to the mailman and tells him it’s okay because the afflicted can’t spread the sorrow, only the dead, and she seduces him and they begin having sex but he’s not very attentive because a transition later and he’s humping a blob of black goo with a shoulder, head, and one breast hanging out of it.

Meanwhile we go back to Uncle Pete who is barricaded in his room because, surprise, Aunt Carmen was also a ghost.  He picks up the top half of a cat, picks a big chunk of bloody gristle from its gaping wound, and eats it before rubbing the severed end all over his face and giggling madly whilst saying “you’re not gonna get me!”  This has no bearing on anything, it’s just there.

Father and daughter return to the city where they’re hijacked by the man in red (Todd Geibenhain) who sends Stephen into a computer parts warehouse to retrieve a part that will “either save the world or end it faster.”  It’s unclear why the man in the ghost-proof red suit is unwilling to go inside and instead sends the entirely undefended hero, but he does.  Then Red Suit Man hands them a roll of tape and walks off leaving his subplot unresolved (I smell a sequel!)

I won’t go into the rest but it involves some wandering around and an ending that involves a pointless stupid decision that makes no sense to me, and a finale stinger that just feels mean.

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Now, let’s be realistic about my defense — Pulse 2 isn’t secretly a masterpiece. I think this movie cost roughly twenty-five dollars and a Subway sandwich card with 3 punches to make.  For some reason it appears that actors have been digitally inserted into about 85% of this movie, and they’re not in some weird CG universe, they’re in a regular house or on the side of the road yet for some reason you can clearly see that they’re there by the magic of green-screen on footage of a set shot at a separate date.  Shooting a movie this way must have been a huge pain to do so I can only imagine that a ridiculously small budget was the reason for it.

The cinematography also leaves something to be desired, there’s no attempt to make the atmosphere scary.  Our daylight scenes are all brightly lit and cheery and the sets are generally clean and orderly like the production was too cheap to buy props or just didn’t get a permit to shoot and is using dodgy camera footage of a set for their green screen mess to get around it.  The movie occasionally looks like a horror movie, but more often like a crappy Canadian Science Fiction TV show from the early 2000s.

Surprisingly the actual special effects are pretty decent, be they practical gore effects or CG.  The ghosts kind of split the difference between Kairo and Pulse; they still have scary make-up on but it’s not as overdone and they’ve got a grainy filter over them like an old black-and-white video so they look good for what they’re supposed to be.  They’re not scary but I knew that wasn’t going to be in the cards the moment I saw how cheap this movie looked.

The acting is mediocre to bad, the leading man and his daughter are both good if a bit soap opera-y and many actors seem to be doing something akin to stage acting, but the rest of the performances vary widely with character actor Todd Giebenhain (of Raising Hope) being the one major stand-out of the cast.

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Where Pulse 2 excels is in its writing.  There are still some plot issues which I’ve highlighted above but this movie has a pretty decent story.  I shouldn’t really be surprised since Joel Soisson served as writer/director on the film.  If you’re unfamiliar with Soisson he has either written, directed, or produced just about ever surprisingly watchable direct-to-video genre sequel there is.  Highlander: Endgame (the workprint is a perfectly good movie), Mimic 2, Piranha 3DD, The Prophecy 3, 4, and 5, he also wrote the Dracula 2000 trilogy and Trick or Treat (not to be confused with the anthology film Trick ‘r Treat.)

Soisson’s sequels tend to be pretty competent from a story perspective (though they’re almost all awful on the technical side) and Pulse 2 is no exception.  There’s no feeling of dread, nor any scares to be spoken of, but he takes the idea established by the first film, adds some slightly underdeveloped but still better-developed-than-the-original-crop characters, and plays around in that sandbox.  Say what you will, this isn’t a lower-budget rehash of the first movie.

Pulse 2 is not a great movie, I don’t even know if I think it’s worth owning or even watching a second time, but as someone who has personally wallowed in the filth that is the direct-to-video horror market I can say that this movie doesn’t even make it into the bottom 1000 of bad movies.  Hell, I’d rather watch Pulse 2 than Tooth and Nail or Ultraviolet, certainly rather than Live Freaky Die Freaky.  I never felt bored and I found the story captivating enough.  I’m eager to see what what Man in Red’s plan is in the next installment.  See you tomorrow Chewers!

Pulse 2 is available on DVD and through Amazon instant.

“You know I only let you stomp on my head because I love you.”

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