Forgotten Film Synopses: Pulse


Welcome, peeps, to the latest FFS to kick off your long Labor Day weekend!

Before Joey Lawrence was the embarrassing douchebag brother on 80's sitcom Blossom, he was a promising young actor surprisingly talented in a way most child stars just aren't. And I'm happy to highlight this with the latest installment of FFS, 1988's Sci-fi/horror Pulse.


It's an interesting take on a Sci-fi/alien contact concept the likes of which wouldn't be touched for years, and even then, not with the type of thrill and horror element expressed here.

In the wee hours of the morning, Bill Rockland (Cliff DeYoung) and his second wife Ellen (Roxanne Hart) are jolted awake by their neighbor across the street, screaming and bashing things up in his home. They're joined outside by all their other neighbors, and police arrive to investigate.

Entering the home, they find everything destroyed - walls are broken down, sink fixtures are busted, water is flooding the kitchen, electronics are smashed and strewn about in pieces - and the owner is lying in the middle of everything, dead.

                                                                "Fried him like an onion....."

The next day they pick up Bill's son David (Joey Lawrence) from the airport, come to stay with them for the summer. He's uneasy with the new house, especially considering they have the whole place locked down with security bars on the windows (which of course, is significant in later events). Despite that, David is angry over the fact his Dad had to move out of state in a hurry to get as far away from his ex-wife as possible.

While Bill and Ellen are off to a business dinner, David is left at home to watch the ball game on TV. Outside, something strange is going on with the electrical wiring on the post. The thermostat goes on and off, the television is fucked up, and even the dryer start belching flame.


Some kind of electrical pulse is at work in the wiring, and when Bill and Ellen return, although they're not believing of David entirely, they call over an electrician the following day.

The guy explains about pulses, a strange phenomenon involving uneven spurts of electricity traveling through the system intermittently. Checking out the melted guts of the set, he finally admits that he has no clue what could've caused it, and tells Ellen to just follow the manual.

Going outside to try to show off his lack of skating skills to the neighborhood kids, he meets Stevie (Matthew Lawrence), who tells him about the dead neighbor.

Apparently, his wife had died when the garbage disposal shot one of its blades out into her eyeball, and things started getting out of hand with his electricity. He blamed the kids for his dead grass, claiming they poisoned it at night. Then came the smashing up of his TV and stereo. Finally, he died from electrocution.

David tries calling up his mother that evening in order to beg to come back home, but she won't have it. Curious, he notices that the neighbor's wiring directly connects with the Rockland's box, and now their grass is starting to die, despite the sprinklers.

He sneaks into the dead guy's house alone (since Stevie ran off), and surveys the damage, as well as the man's chalk outline. Suddenly, an old man drops down from the rafters, who looks like he could've made a far better Freddy Krueger instead of being stuck with a bit part in this film.


He introduces himself as Holger (Charles Tyner) and knows exactly what's going on. Asking David if he can "hear the voices" in the wires, he explains that he'd seen 20 houses exactly like the dead man's, and following the first 2 or 3, began investigating on his own to find the answer, which he isn't telling outright anymore. All the other homeowners were made to believe they were crazy, but he's determined not to be, and takes his leave.

David tries to explain that what took over the neighbor's house is now taking residence in theirs, but naturally, Dad won't believe him. When David tries to walk out, he's literally brought back kicking and screaming.

Bill and Ellen discuss the situation, where it seems she's catching on to what David was saying (including her report that the VCR had destroyed a VHS rental that she had to pay $60 for, lol). Bill, however, is more concerned than anything that if he allows David to go back to his mother, he'll never want to come back again.

Still determined to get the hell outta there, David tries to drive Bill's car out of the garage, although he of course doesn't know what he's doing. Having locked himself inside, he tries to open the garage door, but the opener burns out. And the pulse has burned a pipe to the point of busting open, releasing noxious fumes.


At least he was determined enough to ram the car straight through the garage door, enough to give him some space to roll out. With Bill and Ellen home, David back from the hospital, and the pipe replaced, a specialist gives another lame excuse for why this kind of thing could've happened.

But Ellen starts to bug out. She tells Bill his son was right, and that at night, she can hear something odd in the hum of electrical sounds within the house. She tries to convince Bill that some strange force has taken residence within their home, and it may be only a matter of time before another "accident" kills someone.

The next day, Ellen sees old man Holger's truck pull up across the street, as contractors have started work rebuilding the interior of the dead man's house. At first he denies he knows or has told David anything about the pulse, but realizing she's dead serious, he tells her the solution.

Like a specialized signal or "voice" in the wiring, she must cut off anything with "ears to hear it". That is, her home needs to be disconnected from everything electric. Holger, as it turns out, has been using wood fires and kerosene lighting for months - he's even begun building a fallout shelter for the moment the pulse spreads to every home in the world, and into the computer terminals of government defense and weapons systems.

Severely freaked out, Ellen watches as the old man leaves, running back to her house and trying to avoid turning anything on. However, I guess she failed to remember the boiler, which is used to heat their water, is operated electrically...

Deciding to take a nice long shower, the pulse taps into the system, resulting in the water reaching boiling levels, with Ellen unable to escape due to the Rockland's faulty glass shower door. Bill has to smash it with a lamp, revealing a severely injured Ellen, who's out of the game for the remainder of our film.


Bill returns late that evening, where another couple of elderly neighbors were keeping David. He tells his son Ellen would be o.k. after some time in the hospital. And that night he decides to go back to the evil house, where in some form of pulse mockery, the air conditioning has the bedroom now freezing, flapping steam-loosened strips of wallpaper in the breeze.

The televisions are going off and on and emitting static, the VCR is on the fritz, the thermostat is fried, and Bill barely escapes a glass-shooting garbage disposal from slicing his skull open.

Shutting off all the breakers within the fuse box, the pulse seems pissed off. Forced into the basement appliances, it roars to life (although I don't get how it could slam and lock the doors after Bill goes down there).

Now all the power tools come to life, spitting nails like bullets through the air, one grazing Bill's forehead and knocking him out. In the meantime, David is awake and watching the lighting go haywire across the street, venturing over in an effort to find his Dad.

The pulse starts playing with him, turning a movie into violently-displayed light beams, shutting the phone off when he tries it, only to make it ring seconds later, and trying to fry him with a mixture of mini-lightning shocks and floods of water from the spazzing sink.


Dad wakes up, and having heard David's cries tries to crawl his way out of the basement, eventually using an axe to chop right up through the kitchen floor.

A fire breaks out, thanks to the pulse burning up the outlet plugs with so much energy they begin to burst into flames. Naturally, Bill dropped his key in the basement, so going out through the front door that he LOCKED seems impossible. He runs to the back door, where by a miracle he's able to stop short before tumbling right into electrified water.

Then he suddenly remembers what he should've done to begin with, and busts the front door apart with his axe. Taking David outside where neighbors have gathered, he proceeds to chop down the electrical pole, as his son happily watches.


That is, until police arrive and try to put a stop to it, drawing their guns with intent to shoot if Bill breaks some major law by depriving the block of their HBO.

He drops the axe, but the pole crashes through the roof anyway, destroying everything within as Bill laughs maniacally. Driving off in the cops' cruiser, both father and son are only too happy to be called crazy for destroying their own home. And nearby at Stevie's house, his kitty-cat clock starts sparking - but he just pulls the plug.


film (c) 1988 Aspen Film Society, Columbia Pictures Corp.



Uploaded 09/02/2011
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