Home > Reviews > PULSE – Elia Cmiral

PULSE – Elia Cmiral

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Once upon a time, for a short period, Elia Cmiral was considered a ‘hot property for the future’ in Hollywood music circles. Having taken a tortuous circuit to the mainstream – via his Czech homeland, his adopted country of Sweden, and work on the TV show Nash Bridges – his first major film, the 1998 Robert De Niro thriller Ronin was pretty much roundly praised. Then, two years later, came the nadir: the ill-fated, critically derided Battlefield Earth, which almost single-handedly re-destroyed John Travolta’s career, and catapulted Cmiral into the realms of straight-to-video Z-grade horror movies. Pulse is only his fourth cinematic feature since the turn of the millennium and, unfortunately, neither the film or the score is likely to alter his career trajectory.

Pulse is a remake of director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 Japanese horror film ‘Kairo’. It stars Kristin Bell, Ian Somerhalder and Christina Milian as a group of friends who have to come together to stop a terrifying evil from taking over the world. The evil in question is a being from another dimension which lurks in the electromagnetic signals contained in radio waves, computers, cellphones, and other such devices, and which had inadvertently been released from its own realm into ours by a computer hacker. It all sounds quite intriguing, and as well as featuring such eminent character actors as Ron Rifkin, Brad Dourif and Zach Grenier in the supporting cast, the screenplay is by none other than Wes Craven. Unfortunately, by all accounts, the movie is a complete and utter mess, and will do little for the reputations of anyone involved, least of all debutante director Jim Sonzero. Sadly, the same can be said of the score.

It’s perhaps indicative of the state of modern film music that Elia Cmiral literally dialled in his score for Pulse. Using an ISDN connection from his home in Los Angeles, Cmiral remotely conducted seventy minutes of score with a sixty piece orchestra located in Prague, and then overlaid that with a huge amount of electronic sound design, synths, percussion programming, and a sampled choir. Has it got to such a stage now that the composer doesn’t even have to be in the room with the orchestra in order to create the score? How is it possible for the players to respond to the nuance, the subtlety in a conductor’s work, and get the best results? While I applaud the use of technology, I think it’s a step in the wrong direction for the film music business as a whole.

Although, to be honest, I don’t think the score would have turned out a whole lot better if Cmiral had been in Prague interacting with the orchestra in person. It’s a loud, angry, incessantly annoying score which almost entirely eschews any kind of melody or thematic content, and instead presents cue after cue of thrashing, snarling noise. The orchestra grinds away dissonantly, with screeching strings taking centre stage for the most part. The synths are of the ‘ambient groaning’ variety, adding all kinds of industrial noises, whines and hums on top of the orchestra. Presumably the intended effect was to blur the lines between the human world (the orchestra) and the world where the bad guys come from (the electronics), and create a collision of sound which signifies the battle between the two forces and their struggle for power. Or, maybe I’m reading too much into it, because the actual effect is one, long, 38-minute drone that merges into a single, interminable soundscape which could easily put a listener to sleep if it wasn’t so loud.

One or two cues are interesting: “Mattie Walks Home” has a lonely-sounding piano element, “Suicide” has a weird electronic pulse which makes your ears briefly prick up, “Remembering Izzy” and “Escape” briefly work in a modern urban vibe to raise the tempo slightly, “Dancing Ghost” works in a cooing vocal effect, and action tracks like “Leaving”, “Phantoms Attack” and “Wall of Pipes” at least have a sense of urgency about them, but beyond these few brief moments, I’m genuinely struggling to say anything else positive about the score.

I really don’t know what else to say. Pulse is one of those scores which really has no reason to exist on CD, because it doesn’t make in any way for interesting listening, was written for a film which virtually everyone agrees was terrible, and is by a composer who, with all due respect, hardly has a clamouring fan base itching for his next new release. It’s pretty much redundant from start to finish, and unless you have a great love for dissonant orchestral textures overlaid with a myriad of grinding industrial synths, I would suggest you steer clear. The film may be called Pulse, but this score barely has one.

Rating: *½

Track Listing:

  • Goodness of the Girl (written by Phil Ballantyne, Michael Caso, Damon Cox and Joel Potter, performed by Intercooler) (3:46)
  • Delay the Wait (written by Jules Larson and Joz Ramirez, performed by Overnight Lows) (3:14)
  • Josh’s Secret (1:16)
  • Lost Soul in Library (1:52)
  • Ghost in Bath (1:03)
  • Computer Center (2:11)
  • Izzy Deceased (2:27)
  • Mattie Walks Home (1:49)
  • Stone’s Death (1:10)
  • Alone with Ghosts (1:21)
  • Suicide (1:40)
  • Remembering Izzy (1:09)
  • Video Diary (1:29)
  • Mattie Has a Dream (1:40)
  • Leaving (0:50)
  • Mattie’s Hallucination (1:28)
  • Dancing Ghost (1:57)
  • Sad and Scared (1:28)
  • Phantoms Attack (1:05)
  • Printer (1:44)
  • Dexter Gets a Visitor (1:26)
  • Crazy Ziegler (1:19)
  • Wall of Pipes (1:28)
  • Mattie’s Nightmare (1:55)
  • Escape (1:16)
  • Not Over Yet (2:32)
  • Esto Es Lo Que Hay (written by Mauricio Jose Arcas, Armando Figueredo, Jose Luis Pardo, Jose Rafael Torres, Julio Briceno and Juan Manuel Roura, performed by Los Amigos Invisibles) (3:22)

Running Time: 48 minutes 09 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-33866 (2006)

Music composed by Elia Cmiral. Conducted by Adam Klemens and Elia Cmiral. Performed by Orchestra.Net Prague. Orchestrations by Dana Niu, Elia Cmiral, Andrew Kinney, Brad Warnaar and Rossano Galante. Recorded and mixed by Vit Kral, Steve Salani and John Whynot. Album produced by Elia Cmiral.

Categories: Reviews Tags: , , ,
  1. Bill Tilland
    October 26, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    So this reviewer apparently hadn’t even seen the movie (only heard that it was a “mess”), then had the nerve to dump all over the composer’s score because it’s not suffciently pleasing to his ear (“cue after cue of thrashing, snarling noise”). All this without ever evaluating it as an actual accompaniment to a visual presentation. You know, the thing that film scores are suppose to do. Also, I found the score to be enjoyable, subtle, and highly inventive . Not thrashing, snarling noise at all.

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