Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // $14.94 // October 4, 2005
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted December 14, 2005
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Haste comes with a price. In my case, I casually saw Pulse on the list of flicks for review and assumed it was Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse aka. Kairo, which I know quite well and figured would be an easy, quick review. Well, this Pulse is a 1988 PG-13 US flick starring lil' Joey Lawrence, and, as it turns out, the 88' Pulse was not unfamiliar to me. The video box art used to always stare back at me when I perused the horror isle. It had a very 80's horror cover design of a woman being electrified like she stumbled on a live cable backstage at a Deep Purple concert. Of course, as is so often the case these days, that cool artwork has been replaced by a more generic and safe cover for the DVD release.

Divorcee Bill Rochland (Cliff De Young- Flashback, Flight of the Navigator) has his son David (Joey Lawrence- Blossom and numerous covers of Tiger Beat) for the summer. David is glad to be around his father and likes his new stepmom, Ellen (Roxanne Hart- Highlander), but the pangs of being away from home and a father who is too busy with work make David's summer less than ideal. Plus the neighborhood has seem weird goings on, mainly a couple of houses where the inhabitants succumbed to strange accidents.

David spends one evening alone while his dad and stepmom are at a business dinner. First the tv goes out and then more strange electrical mishaps have David convinced that there is something trying to get him, a paranoia his father dismisses as David being hopped up on too much Nestle's Quick. So, David snoops around one of the abandoned houses and runs into Old Man Holger (Charles Tyner, pretty much the creepy old man in a number of flicks), who tells David about his theories of electricity out to kill us all. As the grass on the Rochland yard starts to go brown and the power lines glow with an eerie light, David is running out of time to convince his father and stepmother that they are in danger.

Wow. This epitomizes the PG-13 horror flick. Innocuous. Tame. Possibly scary to a sheltered six year old. Writer/director Paul Golding's only other credit worth noting was that he wrote Beat Street, but from the tone of the film, I imagined he was some PBS kiddie show director who wanted to try his hand at horror. I imagine him selling the film with the tag, "You know, it's a horror film, but its not, you know, too horrible." As such, the villain isn't really even a tangible menace with a personality. This isn't overacting Mitch Pillegi serial killer ghost electricity. It is just.... electricity... plain and simple... that for some vaguely explained reason has decided to attack the residents of this little California cul de sac, singling out a cutey-face kid actor.

So, Pulse is pretty lame. Even as a kid, I doubt this flick would have creeped me out. I mean, there is only so much milage you can get out of an evil that turns up the thermostat or hot water heater. The film really strains to deliver any jolts or suspense. The finale looked like it might be a good man Vs. house ending where the father gets trapped in the home, but I'll take Peter Weller fighting a rat in his apartment or Julie Christie held captive by her obsessed uber-home over this flick any day.

Two minor roles in the film are noteworthy. The first, a case of nepotism, finds Joey Lawrence's little brother Matthew cast as a friendless dweeb down the street. In one scene where Matthew is playing outside with GI Joe figures he says, possibly improvised, "Would you like to play? The Cobra's are attacking the Terrordome." Which doesn't make sense because the Terrordome is the Cobra home base. Perhaps the Cobras found themselves divided due to some upper rank treachery or the GI Joe's had captured the base and the Cobra army was attempting to reclaim it. Needless to say, any of those scenarios from Matthew Lawerence's Hasbro playworld are far more interesting than the film. Another scene finds Robert Romanus cast as a tv repairman. Robert Romanus was, of course, everyone knows this, the ticket scalping, wannabe cool guy, best friend back stabber Mike Damone in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Six years later he's a one scene tv repairman in a low budget kiddie horror flick. I imagine he filmed his scene, went to his trailer, hung his head in his hands, contemplated suicide, and grumbled, "I was Mike Damone, man. Mike- fucking- Damone"

The DVD: Columbia

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Not expecting too much, I was fairly surprised. Sure, the cinematography and sets aren't going to win any awards. Pulse looks less visually pleasing than todays minor, direct to cable films. But, the transfer does a decent job. The print is relatively clean. Good sharpness and contrast details. The color is a bit lackluster. Minor edge enhancement doesn't detract much, and overall it looks pretty nice for a low budget 80's horror film.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Optional English, French, or Japanese subs. Again, no real leaps and bounds for the sound production. Standard, decent mix.

Extras: Nothin', just a bunch of direct to video Columbia horror trailers.

Conclusion: Really, aside from members of the Joey Lawrence Fan Club still clinging to some childhood or adult perverted crush on the kid, I cannot see any reason to purchase this film. The disc itself is fine, worth a purchase or a rental if you are so inclined. But, I cannot fathom many people being interesting in a tepid horror film aimed at a kiddie crowd.

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