The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - PULSE | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - PULSE

pulse review
A young boy becomes convinced that electricity is out to get him.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Paul Golding

Starring: Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart, Joey Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Charles Tyner

pulse bluray

For decades, TV was considered the greatest threat to the movies. Then came VHS and suddenly the idiot box was a filmmaker's new best friend. It's ironic then that the 1980s, the decade the VHS gained prominence, gave us a slew of horror movies in which television was the enemy. Movies like Poltergeist, Halloween III, Demons 2, Shocker, Remote Control and The Video Dead saw TV sets used as tools of the devil or portals to dark dimensions. Watching TV, these movies warned, will do more than just rot your brain.

Arriving at the tail end of this trend was writer/director Paul Golding's sole feature Pulse. The terror starts with an out of control TV set here, but quickly spreads to every other household convenience as electricity itself seems possessed by a demonic force.

pulse review

Youngster David (Joey Lawrence) arrives in suburban Los Angeles to spend the summer with his father, Bill (Cliff De Young), and his new wife, Ellen (Roxanne Hart). David becomes intrigued by the house across the street, currently unoccupied thanks to its previous residents having been killed by an electrical fault. One evening, while left alone to watch the baseball game, David finds his Dad's TV acting up, along with the washing machine.

Investigating the desiccated house across the street, David encounters a creepy old codger (played king of the creepy old codgers Charles Tyner), who tells him that this is but one of many houses where he's seen electricity play strange and deadly tricks. Terrified, David tries to convince Bill and Ellen that they're all in imminent danger.

pulse review

Pulse certainly has an intriguing premise, and horror/sci-fi movies in which a kid attempts to persuade disbelieving adults of some sinister threat generally have an emotional head start, as we all recall our childhood frustrations of not being taken seriously by grownups. The main problem here is that our young protagonist is difficult to warm to. From the off he behaves like a brat to his Dad and new stepmom, and even acts like a condescending git to the adorable kid next door (Matthew Lawrence). To be honest, had David been fried by some loose wire I might have found myself applauding.

Having inanimate objects as your villain always poses problems for a filmmaker, and Golding struggles to convey the threat posed by his electrical menace. The Final Destination series gave us many examples of how to pull off set-pieces involving the threat of electrocution but Golding just can't put together any suspenseful sequences, and ends up confusing the rules by having objects move seemingly without any electrical manipulation. It's no surprise that job offers didn't roll in for Golding, as this is a particularly uninspired debut.

pulse review

There's a spark of satire regarding the rampant consumerism of the '80s and Americans' fear of losing their material goods, with electronic bars installed on the family home and Ellen cooking every meal in the microwave. But having a character as unlikeable as David be the one to comment on this doesn't do the message any favours.

Where Pulse does impress is in its early use of the sort of liquid CG effects that would come to the fore three years later in Terminator 2. Here we see metallic globules form and attach themselves to circuit boards, a physical representation of the otherwise indeterminate and inanimate antagonist. There's a clever shot of suburban Los Angeles as seen through the window of David's plane that makes the city's sprawl resemble a giant circuit board. Golding is certainly trying to say something about the era, but the message is muddled and ultimately lost in a mediocre piece of straight to video storytelling.

Feature commentary by author and film historian Amanda Reyes; video essay by writer and film historian Lee Gambin; collector's booklet (first 2000 copies).

Pulse is on UK blu-ray February 22nd from Eureka Entertainment.