Pulse (1988)

| April 2, 2017

The premise of 1988’s Pulse alone might not inspire much confidence in viewers that it’s going to be any good at all. The premise: evil electricity stalks a family. Is it a ghost in the machine, like, you know, in Ghost in the Machine (1993)? Is it a demon or an alien entity? Or is it a curse? Ehrm… maybe? But that’s not the point really.

Pulse isn’t about solving the mystery of the malicious electrical pulse turning the Rockland family’s home against them. The film’s goal is instead for us to experience the same dread the Rocklands do as they slowly realize the accidents befalling them might not be accidents after all. If only the adults would heed the warnings of the crazy old man who knows the truth about “The Voice in the Wires”!

This is one atmospheric and suspenseful slow-burner for which I have an immense soft spot, having grown up watching it repeatedly on television. Revisiting it now as an adult, though, I happily find my appreciation of the film isn’t purely nostalgia-driven. It still offers up an eerie, if simple, tale about a young boy named David (a pre-Blossom Joey Lawrence) whose father (Cliff De Young) refuses to believe the horrifying things David claims to have seen after encountering “The Voice in the Wires.”

You may have seen countless movies just like it, but Pulse does what it does exceptionally well with its methodical pacing and some clever visuals taking us deep inside the technology controlled by “The Voice in the Wirse.” Yet, with its pretty soft PG-13 rating, Pulse’s scares likely won’t satisfy those craving a more relentless horror and it’s got little in the way of gore, if that’s more your thing. However, if you’re a horror hound dad like me looking for something spooky to watch with your kids or if a simple spook is all you’re after, then Pulse is a lot of fun and rather inoffensive by today’s standards.

Pulse is now available on Blu-ray for the first time ever from Mill Creek Entertainment. Mil Creek’s Blu-ray release of Pulse doesn’t include special features or any sort of limited edition packaging, but it’s not like the film has the cult following to warrant it (just people like me who grew up with it). Still, the transfer is solid all-around with a largely clean and crisp picture presentation. There’s a bit of speckling, but honestly the film looks far better here than you’d expect a Blu-ray that streets with an SRP of $9.98 to look! So it’s well worth the money and a cheap enough pickup if you’re a horror hound looking for a fun blind buy.

Apart from simply being able to at last add Pulse to my Blu-ray collection, my favorite thing about the Mill Creek release of Pulse is the retro artwork. (But note that the plot synopsis on the back of the case gives away everything that happens up through the climax, so do yourself a favor and avoid reading that.) Rather than modernizing the cover art as Sony did with the 2005 DVD to market the movie to modern audiences, Mill Creek took a more nostalgic approach and replicated the aesthetic of RCA Columbia Pictures’ original VHS release of Pulse! This approach appeals directly to the hearts of horror hounds like myself (as well as recent, Stranger Things-inspired 80’s nostalgics), whisking me back in time to the video stores of my youth. And let’s face it, since most people just watch movies on Netflix nowadays, it’s incredibly smart of Mill Creek to market directly to us nostalgia-driven diehard genre fans who still buy up physical media. We horror nerds go crazy for the retro aesthetic!

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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