BEVERLY HILLS, California — Kristen Bell, like pretty much anyone else, typically does the exact same thing every time she walks out of a movie theater.
“You check your cell phone,” the 26-year-old “Veronica Mars” actress grinned. “Which might not be the case with this movie. It does make it kind of freaky.”
To say the least: “Pulse”, the 21st-century horror flick starring Bell and 24-year-old singer/actress Christina Milian, turns technology against the world with a tale that has the dead invading our wavelengths through WiFi, cell phones and other widespread technological advances of the last decade. Quite simply, death becomes imminent for anyone who logs on to a computer and answers in the affirmative to a question posed by the pop-up ad from hell.
” ‘Would you like to meet a ghost?’ ” laughed Milian, stating the cursed query. “Each one of us, these college students in the movie that are nosy kids, go to the Web site and see what it is. And we end up finding things that we probably did not want to see, which is people torturing themselves, monsters; we don’t know what it is.”
Sure, it’s scary enough to visit YouTube and catch clips that are strange, violent and possibly made-up — but what if that footage then followed you home?
” ‘Pulse’ goes somewhere they haven’t gone before,” Bell said of what separates the film from so many other scream-inducing flicks. “It does for the computer what original horror movies did for the closet, or ‘Psycho’ did for the shower … nowadays, we’re so sucked into the computer, the hours go by and everyone’s texting — all these things are supposed to be bringing us closer together, but they are actually making us more reclusive from each other.”
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have a cell phone,” Milian recalled. “Now you see 8-year-olds with cell phones in school.”
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Knowing what they now do, the actresses didn’t waste any time speculating on what would happen to them if the events of “Pulse” ever really did go down. “I get freaked out really easily; part of the reason I wanted to do a horror movie was because I wanted to overcome that fear,” Bell laughed. “If [that question] actually popped up on my computer, I’d probably have a heart attack.”
“I’m turning the computer off,” Milian giggled. “I have a laptop, so I can flip it closed.”
The characters in the movie have a harder time avoiding the technological ghouls — which required Bell and Milian to perfect their scream-queen techniques. With first-time filmmaker Jim Sonzero relying heavily on computer effects, the actresses often had little to get them in the right mood. Instead, Bell and Milian had to picture their own worst fears come true.
“I didn’t even see ‘Leprechaun,’ and I still have nightmares about that little guy, I kid you not,” laughed Bell, referring to the low-budget horror series starring a pot-of-gold-seeking homicidal munchkin. “I saw a preview, and I couldn’t sleep.”
“One of the things that scares me is being by myself in a public restroom!” Milian revealed. “A lot of the times when I get scared, it’s usually when I’m by myself. In the movie, I’m in a Laundromat by myself, this one particular, very scary scene, and I definitely put myself in the moment. It was very dirty, ugly and dingy.”
When leprechaun and public-toilet attacks didn’t help them find the proper shriek, Bell and Milian merely imagined their own cell-phone catastrophes. “I get a lot of prank calls; a lot of interesting ones,” Milian reported. “The spookiest thing, I’d probably say, is that somebody sat on their phone before and accidentally called me. It was completely quiet, and you could just hear in the background that there was mumbling. That was quite spooky.”
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“Sometimes when it cuts out, you hear really weird forms of static that sometimes sounds like people screaming,” Bell observed. “That gets freaky, but then I just immediately hang up.”
Ultimately, “Pulse” may succeed where dozens of pre-show ads have failed — by getting rude moviegoers to turn off their electronics. “You even check your phone in the movie, constantly,” Bell said, confessing that she’s guilty of the crime. “I check my phone all the time when I’m in a movie — you might not want to check it in this movie.”
In fact, Bell recommends that every theater start offering a cell-phone drop box before each show. “Right,” she laughed. “Turn in your technology.”
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