Pulse (1988)


USA. 1988.


Director/Screenplay – Paul Golding, Producer – Patricia Stallone, Photography – Peter Lyons Collister, Music – Jay Ferguson, Production Design – Holger Gross. Production Company – Aspen Film Society


Joey Lawrence (David Rockland), Cliff De Young (Bill Rockland), Roxanne Hart (Ellen Rockland), Charles Tyner (Old Man), Matthew Lawrence (Stevie)


Young David Rockland goes to live with his father and his father’s new wife. While left home alone one night, David notices the electrical equipment behaving erratically. A repairman puts it down to ‘pulses’ – overloads from the transforming station coming back through the wires. However, David soon becomes aware that something has invaded the house and is lethally transforming the electrical equipment.

Pulse is a little-seen film and one that was given zero genre attention when it came out. It is however a modestly effective effort and one that impresses with its slick production values. The film never offers any explanation for what is happening – Pulse could almost be a mechanized version of The Birds (1963) with malevolent electrical appliances instead of birds, or perhaps a better version of what Stephen King was trying to do with Maximum Overdrive (1986).

I liked Pulse for the eerie ambience that director Paul Golding creates – he creeping the camera through the empty house and into the walls then heading inside the electrics, all alight with nobody there, and into macro-closeup as the ‘pulses’ take over, the circuit boards becoming alive with tiny flickers of electricity that are obscene and almost organic in nature as pieces of solder divide and split, giving birth to new junctions. The sound effects are excellent – the film loses much in transference to video – with all the eerie hummings, clickings and buzzings, the ‘sounds in the wires’, creeping around the theatre with the stereo sound system.

Unfortunately, Paul Golding rarely lets the atmospherics pay off in the story department, with most of the story taken up with the uninteresting characters and Golding’s script offering too few explanations for everything. Nevertheless, when Golding does unleash his directorial punches – like the nasty shower scene where Roxanne Hart is nearly burned alive and a particularly well sustained climax, which has one outstanding seat-edge slow-motion scene as Cliff De Young avoids sliding onto a live floor literally only by the tips of his toes – the film is well worthwhile.

Pulse is no relation to and should not be confused with the Japanese ghost story Pulse (2001) or its Hollywood remake Pulse (2006).

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