Ah yes, Pulse. Surely this is one that the hardcore horror fans have been clamoring for. The one from 1989 that starred two entire Lawrence brothers, was rated PG-13, and dealt with haunted ... electricity. Yes, all of our DVD collections can now be complete with the addition of one of the '80s lamest, blandest, and most TV-movie-ish vanilla-fests: Pulse.
Beware ... electricity.
Scan back through the 1980s and you'll find an undercurrent (snicker) of disdain for good ol' electricity. From Stephen King's haunted trucks of Maximum Overdrive to his rather retarded creation of a possessed laundry press in The Mangler, the copycats were soon afoot. Wes Craven's Shocker delivered an undead killer who could travel via electricity; Ghost in the Machine took the idea to an even stupider level; flicks like Brainscan and Trick or Treat delivered its kills via video games and rock music... Basically if you unplug everything in your house, you'll be safe -- unless you trip in the dark and break your neck.
Which brings us (illogically enough) to Pulse, which stars Joey Lawrence as a kid who (rightly) suspects that his house's electrical currents possess malicious intent. Or something. Writer/director Paul Golding's Pulse never actually bothers to explain the motives, the intentions, or even the actual presence of the killer voltage ... but a whole lot of household appliances act in seriously screwy fashion, so obviously it's not the plumbing that's possessed by the devil.
Imagine a 6th-season episode of Gimme a Break!, only replace Nell Carter with a malevolent fusebox, and you're halfway to grasping the sheer banality of this (alleged) horror movie. 74% of the film consists of a pre-teen Joey Lawrence as he walks down hallways, peers into clothes dryers, stares at utility poles, and narrowly escapes death at the hands of a malicious garage door opener.
As Joey's perpetually absent (and amazingly slow) parents, we have Cliff DeYoung and Roxanne Hart, both of whom were probably grateful for a leading role, and both of whom have, by now, completely forgotten that Pulse even exists. First place for the hilarious cameo award must be shared by Richard "Damone" Romanus (as a bizarrely clueless electrician) and little Matthew Lawrence, who's sporting that truly wacky "mushroom-bowl" haircut and spouting line readings as if they're sugary threads of spittle.
When the appliances aren't acting up, DeYoung and Hart are asked to go through the standard haunted house schpiel of "We're not leaving! And our marriage is falling apart, too!" Mr. Golding is kind enough to present us with fade-out act breaks that feel tailor-made for commercial interruptions, which indicates to me that Pulse was perhaps originally intended for a network broadcast. The thing's got "ABC Movie of the Week circa 1988" written all over it, which means it's as blandly, endlessly derivative as it is loaded with Lawrence brothers.
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen transfer, and the flick actually looks pretty solid. Unfortunately, I've never known a surprisingly strong transfer to make a crappy movie any less crappy. Low-budget grainfields are to be expected, but all eight of Pulse's fans will probably be pleased with the picture quality here. (And that eight includes both Lawrence brothers.)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, with optional subtitles available in English, French, and Japanese. Volume levels are all off; dialogue is delivered in hushed tones, while the clattering score and frequent "electricity!" sound effects are a lot damn louder than they ought to be.
Extras: Just a bunch of trailers for Frankenfish, Devour, Vampires: The Turning, and Kingdom Hospital.
Pissed-off pilot lights, steamed shower stalls, freaky fuses, manic microwaves, grouchy garbage disposals, and vengeful voltage. Oh, and a whole lotta Lawrences. Hoo boy.
And let's be honest here; Were it not for the Japanese horror film Kairo (aka Pulse) and the big-budget American remake that's coming soon ... this tired little genre droplet would still be stored quietly and anonymously within Sony's massive vault.