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  Pulse The Appliance Of Mad Science
Year: 1988
Director: Paul Golding
Stars: Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart, Joseph Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Charles Tyner, Dennis Redfield, Robert Romanus, Myron Healey, Michael Rider, Jean Sincere, Terry Beaver, Greg Norberg, Tim Russ
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Recently something strange happened in this suburb where husband and wife Bill (Cliff De Young) and Ellen (Roxanne Hart) were awoken in the middle of the night by a crashing and shouting from across the street. He went to investigate, and as far as he could tell the man who lived there was going ballistic, smashing up his property in a rage, yet nobody could work out why. When the cops arrived, they broke in through the front door and found carnage within, and also the body of the old man who had been struck and burned across the back of his neck. Apparently he had been paranoid for some time...

But paranoia, as we know, is contagious and soon Bill's son David (Joseph Lawrence, then known as Joey) has arrived for the summer holidays, reluctantly as he wishes his divorced parents were back together and living in the same house. This was pretty much told from the boy's point of view, owing a debt many noticed to Poltergiest of a few years before (there's even a haunted television present), which placed it in a number of eighties horrors where children would be at the centre of some haunting or upheaval and we watched them try to cope with that: Danny Torrance from The Shining would appear to be the source of the trend, though often it meant some resistable moppet whining their way through the suspense.

In this case, the acting from both adults and children alike was actually not bad at all, which helped to keep credible a premise which was wise not to offer an explanation for its menace. What the old bloke across the way thought was happening before his untimely demise was that something had gotten into the electricity supply, some malevolent force which was turning his own home against him. Or it could be that it's the electricity itself which is the threat, somehow gaining intelligence and instead of carrying on its assistance of humanity it has turned against us with violent results. Certainly it has it in for David who is frequently imperiled the further the story progresses.

And naturally, nobody believes a little kid, especially when the conspiracy he is trying to convince others of sounds so farfetched. Not his father nor his stepmother, but we can discern from the many, many closeups of circuits and electronic devices that something is most definitely up. Director and writer Paul Golding, who never made another film after this, had a nice line in effects which showed the metal in the circuit boards melting and rearranging itself, all the better to, er, do whatever it was meant to be doing, a striking image which possessed a clever, technologically sinster quality, as the notion that all that stuff you take for granted in modern life could suddenly be your enemy was a potent one.

As it played out, it could be that the pace was that bit too leisurely because even when it reached the mayhem of the climax Pulse was never quite exciting enough, no matter its pleasingly simple idea. As various setpieces were brought out, with David nearly gassed in the garage whose electronic door stubbornly refuses to open, or the increasingly suspicious Ellen takes a shower and is alarmed when the water turns hot enough to burn and, er, the shower door stubbornly refuses to open (it wasn't electric, but possibly it expanded in the heat), this was rarely less than diverting, but it failed to reach the potential you kept expecting: no lightning bolts of the apocalypse to be witnessed here, that was for sure. That said, there were a few decent scenes, and Charles Tyner had fun as the old geezer who seems to have the mystery figured out and drops strong hints as to what David should be doing to combat it, a welcome addition. After a while this became a middling "How can we attack characters with appliances?" horror, but some have found worth in that. Music by Jay Ferguson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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