Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
Released on: March 7th, 2017.
Director: Paul Golding
Cast: Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart, Joey Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Charles Tyner
Year: 1988 Purchase From Amazon
From Paul Golding, the man who brought you Beat Street, comes a fairly dated PG-13 horror tale of technology run amuck! Set in the then current day of 1988, Pulse introduces us to a kid named David (Joey Lawrence) who leaves his mother in Colorado to go spend some time with his dad, Bill (Cliff De Young) and new stepmother wife Ellen (Roxanne Hart) in a California suburb. What David doesn't know is that shortly before he moved into this fancy new house and had a rad new racecar bed to sleep in at night, the guy across the street went crazy and was found dead in his basement. See, that guy lost his wife in a freak garbage disposal accident and he was never the same afterwards, accusing the neighborhood kids of causing his green grass to go yellow by poisoning it and other such nonsense.
The first night David is there, Bill and Ellen have to leave him alone for the night to attend a work function. While David chowing down on junk food and making obscenely full glasses of chocolate milk, the TV starts acting kind of funky - there's a strange mix of audio but the picture doesn't match, it's just funky. Then the dryer in the basement starts acting up. David freaks out just in time for his dad to come home and calm his nerves, but the kid knows what he saw. The next day not even the electrician can give a proper explanation for what happened to the TV set, chalking it up to a 'pulse' that must have short circuited the thing. When a curious David, after learning about what happened across the street from younger neighborhood kid Stevie (played by Joey's younger brother Matthew Lawrence), sneaks into that house he comes face to face with Holger (Charles Tyner), a weird old man who warns him about the wiring and the electricity in the area. From here, thing go from bad to worse and soon it seems that anything connected to anything powered by electricity is taking on a mind of its own...
Now that we live in an age where everything is connected and the internet of things is actually a thing, the horrors of Pulse seem positively quaint when you think about the potential of the havoc that could be wrought in the modern age. Having said that, if this picture is a product of its time - and it is - at least it's an entertaining one. For it's time the premise is well executed - the evil electrical current's origins are never really explained but they don't need to be. Instead, they're simply out to get the human characters, taking on not only the TV and the dryer as noted, but even going so far as to play malicious games with the hot water (resulting in the film's most unsettling scene wherein poor Ellen gets some nasty burns in the shower). The movie also features some interesting camera work and decent effects used in a few scenes where we literally see the electricity doing its thing. This keeps the film visually interesting despite the fact that it basically all takes place in a very plain, vanilla style suburb.
Performances are pretty solid across the board. Cliff De Young is believable enough as the dad. You feel for the guy when he hears his kid on the phone telling his mom he wants to come back to Colorado. Likewise, Roxanne Hart is well cast as the kindly stepmother. Often times in movies stepparents are less than perfectly nice people - Hart as Ellen is sweet, likeable and just nice. You don't want bad things to happen to her! Charles Tyner steals the few scenes that he's in as the weird old man who seems to be the only one who understands what's going on, while young Joey Lawrence is surprisingly good in the lead role. He'll always be remembered as Joey from Blossom but hey, credit where credit is due, he's just fine in this serious role (and younger brother Matthew isn't bad either).
Pulse arrives on Blu-ray in an MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc that looks quite a bit better than you'd probably expect it to. While there is minor print damage evident throughout and detail could probably be improved with a newer scan and a heftier encode, this easily surpasses a standard definition presentation. There's decent depth and texture to the picture, colors are nicely reproduced and there aren't any serious compression issues, edge enhancement problems or noise reduction quirks to note.
The only audio option on the disc is an LPCM 2.0 Stereo track. Optional closed captioning is provided in English only. This track is genuinely impressive at times. There's excellent channel separation and this adds to the fun during some of the film's more intense scenes. The score sounds great, there's good depth to the track, while dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable.
There are no extras, just a simple static menu. Gotta love the fact that Mill Creek used the old RCA/Columbia VHS cover art for the packaging though!
The Final Word:
Pulse isn't a lost masterpiece but it is a fun eighties horror picture made better by some decent acting and a few solid effects set pieces. Mill Creek's Blu-ray is the very definition of barebones, but it looks and sounds quite good and you can't argue with the price. Recommended!
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!