Pulse (1988)

Author: Wes R.
Submitted by: Wes R.   Date : 2011-04-29 21:09

Written and Directed by: Paul Golding
Starring: Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart, and Joey Lawrence

Reviewed by: Wes R.

“It ain't a thing, it's a signal...... a pulse, kinda like a voice. So what you've got to do is to get rid of anything
in your house that might have ears to hear it.”

When Wes Craven and New Line Cinema unleashed Freddy Krueger on an unsuspecting populace in 1984, all bets were off. The traditional slasher movie just wasn't enough for audiences anymore, and many lower budget studios were left trying to make money off a dated business model. Therefore, when Wes Craven's next big budget studio horror project, was announced (and featuring a villain slated to become "the next Freddy Krueger") other studios scrambled to try and get in on the action of what was surely going to be a cash cow and franchise featuring as many sequels as Elm Street had, if not more. As all best laid plans often end up, however, the resulting film (Shocker) flopped, and the legacy of its villain (Horrace Pinker) is that of a one-shot late 80s horror curiosity. Instead of the next Freddy, Wes Craven's newest creation was left looking more like a Freddy rip-off, not unlike the Coroner of Doom Asylum or the myriad of other wisecracking Freddy imitators. The films that tried to cash in on Shocker's would-be success didn't fare much better. MGM's The Horror Show (also known as House 3) features a murderer similarly executed in the electric chair. However, Tri-Star pictures took a different route. Instead of a boogeyman born from a death involving electricity or using electricity as his vehicle of destruction, the villain of 1988's Pulse would essentially BE electricity itself. Further proof of its intended cash-in angle, Pulse was even shamelessly billed as "The Ultimate Shocker!"

Fresh after a divorce, David (Joey Lawrence) hesitatingly goes to live with his father and new stepmom. Not wanting to be there in the first place, things are complicated by the fact that their next door neighbor mysteriously goes crazy one night and is found dead amongst puddles of water and electrical cords. Soon, bizarre mishaps and incidents of an electrical nature begin occurring at David’s house. His father and stepmom dismiss them as being born of a child’s imagination, but soon, they too come to realize that the town crazy was right (as they usually are in these movies). An electrical pulse has been given an intelligent, aware life of its own, and it’s apparently tired of making your life easier, and is now determined to make it a living hell.

For what it's worth, Pulse isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not a terribly interesting one. The directing is adequate but there just isn’t much here. I think the concept of “killer electricity” is just hard to pull off in a horror movie. In an era when we have movies with shots of masked boogeymen and monsters chasing down helpless victims, instead here, we have lingering, intense close-up shots of the inside circuits of TVs and thermostats. Sometimes, we’ll get a crackling blue optical effect flicker, but that’s about all we get in the way of a physical manifestation of the evil forces at work. There’s a slight homage to Psycho, in that there’s a shower scene. However, instead of a feverish stabbing, we get a possessed hot water heater that causes scalding water to spray and blister David’s stepmom. The film does pick up a bit toward the end, but by that time, most viewers will have either already fallen asleep on the couch or press the stop button.

On the whole, the acting is quite good, even if the subject matter crosses over into the silly. Once upon a time, Joey Lawrence was a promising child actor. Despite the promise he showed here, he’s really best known for playing Miyam Bialik’s dopey older brother on the popular early 90s sitcom, Blossom. Joey’s younger brother Matthew (who would later go on to fame as part of the cast of TV’s Boy Meets World) also appears in the film. It’s truly a shame that this was the only other noteworthy movie in the filmography of Robert Romanus from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I enjoyed him in Ridgemont High. Here, he has a throwaway role that pretty much could’ve been played by anyone. Playing Joey Lawrence’s struggling father is Cliff De Young, who’s been in countless TV and movie projects over the years.

Being a PG-13 movie, there isn’t a lot of gore. In fact, the body count is a measly one. Though it tries its best, the killer pulse usually only succeeds in injuring people. To me, this kind of takes the bite out of what is supposed to be the film’s main threat. The only thing we really get is a few scalding blisters on David’s stepmother’s shoulder after her encounter with the possessed shower, and a little bit of blood. The visual effects are dated but interesting. There were some pretty cool shots of the melting and overheating of soldering metal and circuit board. Toward the end, there's one sequence where David becomes transfixed on the TV, as the malevolent force begins showing him a series of bizarre images, not entirely unlike those that would terrify audiences over a decade later in The Ring.

Of all the movies that Columbia/Tri-Star has yet to release on DVD or Blu-Ray, strangely, Pulse was deemed more worthy of a release. I’d be willing to bet the only reason it’s on DVD in the first place was to cash in on the U.S. remake of a Japanese horror film of the same name. Perhaps they thought some unsuspecting horror fan would see this and be duped into thinking it was the Kristen Bell movie (not like they'd be much better off with that one, to be honest). The disc has a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer, but like most Columbia/Tri-Star DVD offerings, the disc is barebones in the Special Features department. I’m sure on some level, this movie has its fans. With the Eighties being a golden era of horror, there are just so many better films from this period that you should seek out before I would recommend this one. If you've seen all the rest, and want to give something unique a shot, give it a go. For horror completists only. Otherwise, just Rent it!

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Average members rating (out of 10) : 1.75   
Votes : 4 since 2011-05-13 12:08