Saturday, August 20, 2022

Pulse, on BET+

These game designers and gamers aren’t like the characters of One Second After. Their digitally-dependent lives make them particularly unprepared for the destruction wrought by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). However, they think they unique insight that will help them overcome, because the disaster appears to be unfolding just like their scenario of the horror-survival game they wrote and play. Regardless, they must somehow fight their way out of the building in the six-episode Pulse, which is now streaming on BET+.

The game of
Pulse is personal to Jaz, Caspar, and Errol. They designed it together and modeled the playable characters after themselves. After selling out to a big company, they reluctantly made many compromises when designing the new reboot. Jaz is tired of hearing criticism from Eddie, the building’s toxic-fan security guard, especially since she largely agrees with him.

Unfortunately, they all must take Eddie’s notes seriously when an apparent EMP fries all the building’s electronics. Rather perversely, Eddie starts conducting a deadly
Pulse game in real life, tauntingly challenging Jaz and her colleagues to survive each deadly level of the building. Originally designed for the state secret service, the blocky brutalist behemoth has some seriously evil feng shui. It was a scary place, even before all its occupants started going stark raving mad. First the EMP started scrambling the electrical charges in everyone’s brains. Then a carbon monoxide leak drove them into full-blown psychosis.

The Pulse office was spared the worst effects of the chemicals, but the EMP really did a number on Jaz. She was already diagnosed with Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS), but its effects have been intensified by the electric charge. Ironically, in the game, her character’s AIWS gives her an advantage to see beyond the deceptions of ostensive reality, which also might now be the case for Jaz in real life too.

Pulse has issues with logic, but it was clearly made by and for survival horror video game players. Everyone who was disappointed in Netflix’s utterly dreadful Resident Evil reboot (probably the worst series of the year), should watch Pulse instead. It is a high energy, often bloody celebration of mayhem, which also features some absolutely crazy, but weirdly satisfying twists. Most of what fans want from Resident Evil they can find here.

Tarryn Wyngaard is terrific as sensory-addled, ultra-goth Jaz, while Thapelo Mokoena is all kinds of cool and steely playing Errol, the self-described sociopath. Yet, Carel Nel matches their extreme screen presences as the preeningly villainous Eddie. All three chew the scenery like nobody’s business, which in this case, is quite a bit of grubby guilty-pleasure fun.

All six episodes were written by Stephen Clarke and directed by Salmon de Jager, who maintain a consistency of tone and regularly return to the structure and motifs of survival horror gaming. The way they mislead viewers is kind of cheating, but it is sufficiently justified by the fitting pay-off. Highly recommended for fans of the
Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises, Pulse is now available on BET+.