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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Pulse (1988)

"That's weird. It won't turn off."
- Ellen (Roxanne Hart)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 09, 2005

Stars: Cliff DeYoung, Roxanne Hart, Joey Lawrence
Other Stars: Matthew Lawrence, Charles Tyner
Director: Paul Golding

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (scenes of suspense)
Run Time: 01h:30m:56s
Release Date: October 04, 2005
UPC: 043396011595
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB- D

DVD Review

Not to be confused the Kiyoshi Kurosawa Japanese horror film of the same name from 2001, this Pulse is a generally forgotten 1988 domestic release about electronics and appliances gone wild from writer/director Paul Golding. It seems some type of malevolent energy burst —we see ominous lightning strikes (in the form of bad special effects) during the title sequence—is bouncing from house to house along power lines, causing items designed for human comfort to turn into killing machines, or at the very least, huge nuisances.

Recently divorced and remarried dad Bill (Cliff De Young) and his new wife Ellen (Roxanne Hart) get a visit from his young son David (perennial 1980s moptop Joey Lawrence), but the aforementioned evil energy ball has its sights on wreaking its own special havoc. At first it's in the form of strange, but harmless television problems, but it escalates quickly to include a hungry garage door and a really hot shower, as wide-eyed David investigates what really happened to the "crazy" neighbor who died after gutting the inside of his home, and learns some nightmare-inducing secrets from a creepy old guy, played with scene-stealing fervor by Charles Tyner.

Yet for all the glaring dumbness of the story (how do gas lines get affected by rogue electricity?), Golding manufactures a generally watchable film, one that is noticeably light on suitable payoffs, but one that looks good as it tries. He does an adequate job building suspense, even in the goofiest of scenarios, which makes the lackluster resolutions a tad disappointing. The three leads have nice chemistry, and their line reads and reactions play well, with an easy, natural flow that also helps give Pulse a little more credence and viability than the script seems to merit.

There is an unresolved vagueness to the source of the bad "pulse", something Golding treats with an unexpectedly casual disregard that eventually implies either a sequel (that never came) or simply the end of technology as we know it. Not to overanalyze this, but we get the typical emotional unraveling of the suburban family dynamic and the requisite unification of sorts, but what Pulse really lives for is to show a hot water heater getting really, really hot and present home-sweet-home comfort as a danger zone within the refrained framework of what seems like a made-for-cable thriller.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, aside from a fair amount of grain, almost manages to make Pulse look better than it actually is. The print has aged well—with no major dirt or damage to speak of—and image detail is good, with colors looking bright and fleshtones having natural and lifelike tones.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a serviceable 2.0 surround track, but it's a front-centric mix that doesn't offer much in the way of significant rear channel cues. Dialogue is fairly clear, though a bit thin in spots, but some minor directional effects do widen the soundstage a wee bit.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Frankenfish, Devour, Vampires: The Turning, Kingdom Hospital
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras except for a quartet of trailers, the best of which is for the Anaconda knockoff Frankenfish. The disc is cut into 12 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French, and Japanese.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Too bad the story never really takes hold, because director Paul Golding has most of the bases covered for a moderately decent little "technology attacks" horror film from the late 1980s, including a crossblend of naturally delivered dialogue and plenty of people-in-peril sequences (even it is largely from household appliances and electronics).

The faults in the premise (watch out for that deadly shower!) handcuff the creation of any real terror, but the presentation is surprisingly strong and shows more promise than the script allows.


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