Directed by: Paul Golding
Written by: Paul Golding
Starring:  Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart, Joey Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Charles Tyner
Year: 1988
Running time: 95 mins
Country: USA
BBFC Classification: 18

A welcome Blu Ray release for this VHS rental favourite back in the day (at least in this reviewer’s household!), Pulse is a well crafted and creepy slice of sci-fi horror that deserves much more love. Youngster David (Joey Lawrence) flies to California to spend some time with his estranged father (De Young) and his kindly stepmom (Hart). Having trouble adjusting to his parents being separated and his bond with his father somewhat strained, David soon notices strange happenings with the home’s electricity and its appliances. Prior to David’s arrival the neighbour across the way was seemingly driven mad and killed by the “voices in the wires!”. Now the malevolent pulse has made its way into David’s house turning the appliances against him. But can he convince his family that the electricity is alive before it turns the house into an inescapable death trap?

A potentially silly concept is given credible creepy credence through a thick sense of ominous dread, great characterization, several startling set-pieces, and some great skill behind the camera. Sort of like a short, sharp, scary short story Pulse (despite all it’s now outdated tech and 80s styling) is a great cautionary tale of the harnessed energy that we all rely on turning against us. Set in suburban America in the 80s at the height of consumerism, the film subtly takes digs at all-the-things-we-must-have-for-a-perfect-home turning against us, our needy possessions ultimately being our downfall. Despite the undertones of the pitfalls of consumerism this is not a heavy-handed cautionary tale but a great example of old school tech horror.

Utilizing some great macro photography to show the inner workings of the devices fusing with the deadly pulse (and showing you didn’t need CGI back in the day to go inside and through something!), practical effects to deliver several machines-gone-mad set-pieces, a subtle and effective score, and the aforementioned sustained tension of dread means Pulse is a classy, intelligent and shocking slice of sci-fi horror. It’s not particularly gory so those looking for copious grue may be disappointed, but it is tense and come the finale delivers the house-turning-on-it’s-occupants madness we are hear for. It has a sort of (welcome) Poltergeist vibe to it but with a slow burn/measured pace that builds to the electricity-scourging-chaos.

This was writer Paul Golding’s only feature as a director and it’s a shame as he showed immense promise, crafting a tense shocker that still holds up today. The cast is great too, delivering just the right amount of seriousness for such a crazy concept to be believable with a very young Joey Lawrence (TV’s Blossom) and Roxanne Hart (Highlander) both great in their roles as-the-two-who-know-what-is-going-one-but-nobody-believes-them protagonists.

A great tech-horror thriller, Pulse is ripe for rediscovery if you have never seen it and an excellent example of the type of film the 80s produced so well.

Great stuff.

Eureka Entertainment twill release Pulse on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK as part of the Eureka Classics range from 22 February 2021.

SPECIAL BLU-RAY EDITION CONTAINS:

  • Limited-Edition O-card Slipcase (First Print Run of 2000 Copies Only) 
  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • LPCM 2.0 audio
  • Optional English SDH
  • Brand new audio commentary by author and film historian Amanda Reyes
  • Original trailer: great retro trailer from the original release.
  • Tuning in to Tech Horror – video essay by writer and film historian Lee Gambin: a short and sweet essay about the sub-genre of Tech Horror, with Gambin talking over images of the film. It’s a little dry but interesting in what he has to say about the tech-horror genre and recommends some great similar film such as Demon Seed and Murder by Phone.
  • PLUS: A Limited-Edition Collector’s Booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar and author Craig Ian Mann (First Print Run of 2000 Copies Only) – slickly produced booklet featuring an informative piece by Craig Ian Mann detailing the birth of the brief 80s Tech-Horror sub-genre and he explains the swipes at consumerism Pulse takes much better than my review but is a little heavy handed with it, when it would have been more interesting to hear further detail on the making of the film. However, the second essay by Adrián GarcĂ­a Bogliano (director of the ace Late Phases and Here Comes the Devil) does feature some great anecdotes from director Paul Golding about the making of the film and is a much more interesting piece. Some good supplement material to go along with a great film, that could only have been made better with some newly filmed interviews with the cast.
Pulse - Eureka Classics
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