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Month of horror continues with "The Pulse"

For movie buffs, the month of October means one thing: 31 days of horror movies. With tons of horror flicks to choose from, The Daily Texan is going to be providing a daily horror recommendation. Whether you prefer ghosts, zombies or stark explorations of the human condition, we’ll be featuring horror films of all flavors. Check back every evening for the movie of the day. Today’s film tackles evil cell phones in “Pulse.”

As someone who thoroughly enjoys all things technology, it’s sad for me that it really gets dragged through the mud in movies. Hollywood apparently can’t imagine that technology could be used to benefit mankind. Instead it’s the oh-so-typical “technology is going to oust humans and take over the world” bit again and again. In the 2006 film, “Pulse,” technology once again takes center stage as the source of mankind’s downfall.

“Pulse” is a remake of a 2001 Japanese film, with a few updates to reflect the advances in wireless technology we saw between the two movies’ respective releases. In the American remake, a young computer hacker unleashes a virus, creating a gateway that allows spirits of the dead to enter the real world through electronics. The film is centered on Josh’s girlfriend, Mattie (Kristen Bell), and Dexter (Ian Somerhalder) as they try to cut off communication with the dead and stop the invasion.

The film has some great “gotcha” moments, impressive visual effects and is possibly scarier today than when it was released because of the further integration of our mobile devices into our everyday lives. The scene where Dexter and Mattie find the main server where the virus is being stored is especially breathtaking. I legitimately didn’t want to reboot my computer for the rest of the night. Co-writer Wes Craven certainly pulls out every well-known horror film trick in the book and at times, the movie can feel a bit cliche. The characters are never completely developed nor does the plot feel completely coherent, but there is enough excitement to keep you mostly distracted from these shortcomings.

While the odds of the events in this movie occurring are very slim, the overall theme of the film is extremely relevant to college students growing up in the digital age. The film points to how the advent of communication technology can create a great disconnect between those it was meant to bring together. The spirits use the time people spend staring at their computer screens to create a feeling of complete loneliness. While this obviously takes it to an extreme, there certainly is something depressing about staring into the abyss that is your Facebook newsfeed for hours on end. Probably not enough to make you hang yourself with an Ethernet cord, but you get the idea.

What “Pulse” lacks in cinematic excellence, great plot and character development, it makes up for with jump-moments and a relatively unique concept. And if you’re looking for something that will scare you into spending less time procrastinating online, then this movie is for you.

TV Tuesday

In addition to the anticipated return of shows like “Modern Family” and “Dexter,” this fall television season has two highly noteworthy series premieres. Here’s a look at both and why they’re worth the hype.

“Boardwalk Empire,” HBO — Sept. 19

Whether you actually pay that premium every month for HBO or you just torrent this, “Boardwalk Empire” is shaping up to be the network’s next big hit.

Based on the history of Atlantic City during Prohibition, the show’s pilot was directed by award-winning director Martin Scorsese, co-created by The Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter and stars cult-movie favorite Steve Buscemi.

Buscemi plays Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the “county treasurer who lives like a pharaoh and is corrupt as the day is long.” He, like many at the time, sees the 18th Amendment as an opportunity for profit rather than a setback. Like any illegal activity on HBO though, things get messier than just bootlegging liquor.

Combine all those great morsels of historical realism set in the time period of Al Capone, nuanced acting and intricate plot, and “Boardwalk Empire” looks like it’s going to be another strong character-driven drama from the network that produced “True Blood” and “The Sopranos.”

“The Walking Dead,” AMC — Oct. 31

Don’t write this off as just another installment in the zombie-mania genre. “The Walking Dead” is based on Robert Kirkman’s series, which won the Eisner Award — the comic book world’s equivalent of an Oscar. Additionally, the show’s creator is Frank Darabont, the director of “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Both iterations of the story follow small-town police officer Rick Grimes from Cynthiana, Ky. In a scene reminiscent of “28 Days Later,” Grimes wakes up in a hospital after the zombie hordes have been unleashed and stumbles into some fellow survivors.

Now, some more jaded readers may groan at another zombie story, but the beauty of this is that it’s not about the zombies. Zombie flicks focus on the fact that you have roughly two hours to tell the story of some survivors discovering the zombie apocalypse, getting wrapped up in it and barely escaping.

“The Walking Dead,” however, has the luxury of being a full-length series with enough time for Grimes to develop and mature like in the comic book. Pair that with creator Darabont and you have a very human story of how people respond to a hell-on-earth situation, not just another zombie action shoot-em-up.

TV Tuesday

With the final week of summer session hanging over campus like the oppressive summer heat, the onset of the fall semester also means we’re trudging toward some highly anticipated television seasons. Here are a few that might catch your eye in addition to the popular “Glee” or “Weeds.”

‘Gossip Girl’
WHEN: Monday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m.
I’ll admit it — I don’t particularly follow this show. However, the times I’ve been prodded into watching it were not all that regrettable. In entertainment news, Jenny Humphrey will be absent from the show because of actress Taylor Momsen’s falling out with the network. Word on the street is that Momsen and the network executives ran into some “creative differences” when she wanted to go on Warped Tour with her band, The Pretty Reckless. On the bright side, though, the show will pick up the gorgeous and talented Clémence Poésy, who played Fleur Delacour in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and Chloë from “In Bruges.” Poésy comes on as the mysterious, French love interest of Chuck Bass after last season ended with Bass getting mugged and shot. Allegedly, Bass, a notorious playboy, has done some serious soul-searching and has decided to cut some of his dumbassery.

‘Modern Family’
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m.
TV Tuesday readers may recall an earlier column praising ABC’s newest mockumentary, “Modern Family.” The writing is just as good as “30 Rock” or “The Office,” but still in that gloriously fresh, new comedy phase where characters are still unfolding and exploring new directions. While reruns are played each Wednesday, the show is light enough to where you don’t need to catch up on the backstory to just plop down and enjoy it. “Modern Family” centers around a large family with the recently remarried patriarch (played by Ed O’Neil), his homosexual son and semineurotic daughter at the core. Each of these characters has his or her own family unit with a spouse and children, so the mixed cast may seem a bit confusing at first. However, if I can get my mother to change the channel to something that isn’t Home Shopping Network — a bizarre addiction that I still don’t quite understand — then I think anyone can get into this show.

NETWORK: Showtime
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m.
Thankfully, you still have enough time to waterboard the last four seasons into your head, but if you’re not that much of a TV addict, then here’s what happened last season. The series follows Dexter Morgan, a forensics investigator in Miami and a serial killer who kills serial killers. After stalking and finally putting down the “Trinity Killer,” one the most creepily realistic serial killers ever conceived — a role for which John Lithgow garnered an Emmy — Dexter comes home to find his wife dead in a bathtub filled with her own blood. If that wasn’t enough of a psychological kick in the throat, his newborn son was left to sit in blood much like his own “dark birth,” where he witnessed his mother murdered by drug dealers. My only concern is that it might turn into a rehash of season two, with the Miami police officers suspicious of Dexter while he covers his tracks for the rest of the season. Even if it does, though, I’m still thrilled to see Michael C. Hall, who plays the titular character, return to television after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.