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Blu-ray Review: Pulse – “Some brilliantly realised suspenseful set-pieces”

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Released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment on the 22nd of February, 1988’s Pulse is the only film to be written and directed by Paul Golding – who was clearly shocked as a child – and stars Cliff De Young (Shock Treatment), Roxanne Hart (Highlander) and Joey Lawrence (Blossom).

David (Lawrence) is a quiet little boy who lives with his mum in Colorado and is in L.A. to visit his dad, Bill (De Young), and step mum, Ellen (Hart). David has gotten used to the more subdued living in Colorado and is having a hard time adapting to the city of angels. The other kids are hard and mean and his dad is not spending his time with him, so David begins to mope and get interested in a mysterious incident that occurred across the street just before he arrived.

He discovers that a neighbour was driven mad by believing there was a murderous pulse in his home’s electricity, and killed his wife before getting electrocuted, so when the electronics in his dad’s house start playing up he is understandably spooked. There is a “voice in the wires” and it now wants David dead and is happy to go through those around him first to get him. As strained as the relationship is with his son, can Bill save him from getting zapped by the killer current?

Although the deadly charge’s existence and motivation is never explained, Golding uses extreme macro photography to show us it getting into appliances and re-soldering the connections to make them homicidally short circuit. It feels like the kind of thing David Fincher would do and if it made an impression on me now, must surely have seemed at least five times fresher and cooler in ‘88.

My particular video shop – ‘Matchbox Video’, represent – never had this one that I recall, but the cover art would definitely have had me hankering for it. That as maybe, but my older, more patient present self may appreciate Pulse more. The deaths are really well done, and suitably horrible and created via those always-good-to-see practical effects, with getting boiled alive in a rogue shower a particularly memorable set-piece, but Pulse does take nigh on an hour to heat up.

VHS-era Alan could have been bored, but present-day Alan really dug the build-up’s atmosphere. Pulse is powered through its quiet spell by gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Peter Lyons Collister (Halloween 4) and an evocative-of-the-80s score courtesy of Jay Ferguson, who also contributed to the tunes of The Terminator.

De Young is as solid as always and Lawrence is brilliantly non-annoying for a child in a horror film. Their father/son relationship feels real and will have you rooting for them versus a house full of malfunctioning Dixons stock. With some brilliantly realised suspenseful set-pieces, gag-reflex triggering make-up effects and that video shop title vibe you still just can’t recreate, Pulse is an under-the-radar title justly getting the recognition it deserves from this Eureka release.

Simply presented on a single menu page, the Pulse Blu-ray nonetheless impresses. The audio and video are fault-free. The feature only has an uncompressed PCM stereo track, but I would much rather have a crispy and clear stereo track over an artificially created faux 5.1 mix any day. The video encode accurately represents the film’s distinctive 80s look and colour palette and retains just enough grain and dirt to give you a warm feeling inside.

Extras-wise, there is a commentary with author and film historian Amanda Reyes, who I haven’t heard from before but really enjoyed. Amanda is knowledgable and insightful with a lively and friendly tone and her track examines the film in a pleasant-to-listen-to manner giving heaps of info on the cast and crew as well as context and analysis.

The video essay, ‘Tuning Into Tech-Horror’, by Lee Gambin in comparison comes across as stilted and dry. It is an informative piece looking at Pulse and the similar titles of the time, but the clearly-being-read-out-loud word-for-word from a script presentation makes it feel dull and cold. The only other bonus material present is the original theatrical trailer and even though it is less than a minute long it is a cracking little teaser that would have had you running to the video shop to rent Pulse after seeing it.

Film 

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Pulse is released on Blu-ray in the UK on the 22nd of February.

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