61 Days of Halloween: Pulse (1988)


For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, and a list of previously featured films, please go here.

Pulse (1988)

This is one of those films I avoided revisiting for a long time. I have a few of these. Essentially what I’m scared of is that, no matter how marginally I liked it, that upon re-viewing it, under further scrutiny, I’ll find myself disappointed. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t come away with that feeling this time. Now I’m not going to sit here and pretend that you don’t have to seriously suspend disbelief to even give this one a fair shake, but I still think it works. Yes, electricity seeming to have a consciousness and coming to attack you, for whatever reason, is outlandish. However, 1980s horror cinema brought us many a silly topic, but the great thing about the decade is how many were pulled off successfully.

This film significantly upgrades the notion of suburban terror for it’s a tale wherein it’s quite literally the house that after you. While other horror films used the notion of being young homeowners and debating leaving as the real-life element (The Amityville Horror) or home invasions; here this film finds a way to nearly anthropomorphize the house and give it ways to physically hurt you. And, of course, any time something that’s very important, a near necessity, becomes dangerous that’s an ingredient for successful horror fare also.

In a way I thought of this film as an upgrade on Maximum Overdrive, in part because of the necessity attacking, but also because this film made a decision that film did not, and that was having little by way of explanation. Yes, characters hypothesize, both those who know the truth of what’s really happening and one that doesn’t, it sounds good but it can’t be confirmed. It certainly sounds better than the comet in Maximum Overdrive, and Stephen King’s tale Trucks avoided speculation.

The film begins and ends with a montage of electrical devices and carriers, tight angles and wide to establish and drive home the point. There is also a classic approach of being shown a crazy result and then having that unseen incident make sense as the story progresses we see that a pattern is repeating. The escalation of events also makes sense because the film starts with a kid (Joey Lawrence) being witness to odd occurrences and that naturally instill disbelief in the improbable story that’s being told. As events escalate belief becomes easier and the burden of excessive disbelief is avoided.

Aside from some cool, and very ’80s, macro-cinematography and effects work what really carries this film is the performances. Most notably those of Cliff De Young and Joey Lawrence. Also, noteworthy is his younger brother Matthew who plays a funny supporting role, but the drama is palpable through most of the film. The characters are established and they have their conflicts, which are only exacerbated by the strange events. As the events increase in intensity their bearings slip, they become more strained, more irritable and they all pull it off.

Yes, Pulse is a weird little movie with a goofy premise, but it has a lot going for it and will entertain you if you give it shot.

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