I have a mental block...whenever I hear the name of actor Cliff De Young, I immediately picture Dennis De Young, former lead singer of the band Styx. So when I saw Cliff De Young was one of the stars of the film Pulse (1988), I thought to myself "Wow, I didn't know Mr. Roboto made a movie." Interestingly enough, Cliff did actually start out in the music industry in a band called Clear Light, in the late 1960s. Once the group broke up, he began appearing on Broadway, eventually making it into movies. Written and directed by Paul Golding (Beat Street), the film Pulse features, as I mentioned, Cliff De Young (The Hunger, F/X, The Skateboard Kid), who, as far as I can tell, has no relation to the former lead singer of the band Styx, along with Roxanne Hart (Highlander), and Joseph `Joey' Lawrence (Summer Rental, Adventures in Babysitting). Also appearing is Charles Tyner (The Longest Yard, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Evilspeak), Robert `Mike Damone' Romanus (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and brother to Joey, Matthew Lawrence (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Mrs. Doubtfire)...do the Lawrence's implement some kind of contractual obligation where depending on which one you want in your film, you must also take one of the brothers?
All right, the film starts off with lighting striking a power station, and an odd surge makes its way through the system...well, I don't suppose that good for anyone. Following the power lines out, we're eventually taken to a Californian suburb, specifically the home of Bill (De Young) and Ellen (Hart) Rockland. Seems there's a disturbance, followed by silence, in the house across the street, and the police are called. What the authorities find isn't pretty (a dead body), but certainly odd (severe, electrical and flooding damage). Later on Bill retrieves his son David (Joey Lawrence) from the airport (seems Bill and his wife, David's mother, are divorced, and Bill has since remarried), as David is going to spend the summer with his father and stepmother. David's kind of a poison pill, as he's obviously not too psyched about spending the summer away from home, despite Bill and Ellen's attempt to make the best of things (I think David is in need of a kick in the pants). Anyway, some stuff happens and the appliances in the house begins to act all wicky wacky, at least initially around David. David learns a bit about what happened in the death house across the street from his new friend Stevie (Matthew Lawrence), and begins to put two and two together (to get six). Bill thinks David's fears are irrational and stem from separation anxiety, or something like that, but Ellen also begins to notice the strangeness. Soon afterwards, it appears a malicious spirit has entered the Rockland home through the power lines, and is now intent on killing everyone utilizing appliances, power tools, and what not as its weapons of choice. Will the Rockland's be able to `pull the plug', or will they get their fuses permanently blown by the malicious entity inhabiting the wiring of their house?
I thought this movie was decent (in a TV movie sort of way), but I was a little disappointed the malignant force that came through the power lines wasn't a little more clearly defined...I mean, what the heck was it? A satanic spirit? Devilish demon? Pesky poltergeist? Spunky specter? I don't always need everything to be explained away, but given the amount of attention given to this indeterminate evil, some elucidation would have been appreciated (you can tell its evil because when it got into the television and/or VCR and messed up David's rental tape, and Ellen ended up having to buy the now defective VHS tape from the video store for $60...EEEEVIL!). While I though Cliff De Young did a decent job, I really didn't care much for his character, specifically in the beginning as it seemed the arrival of his son was more of an imposition at times rather than something he really wanted (both he and his wife Ellen seemed conspicuously absent much of the time)...in his defense, David was kind of a snotty kid in general (check out the scene where he's going to steal the family car and drive himself to the airport). I think the one aspect, with regards to the characters, that annoyed me more than anything else in this film was something I'd guess the director probably had little control over, and that was the casting of both the Lawrence boys in the film. The boys were supposed to be neighbor kids, but seriously, given their obvious, physical similarities, were we really supposed to believe they were just two unrelated boys from different families? I suspect when the filmmakers tried to cast Joey Lawrence, the Lawrence family and/or manager agreed only after foisting the younger Matthew (who was just a little too cute, for my tastes, sporting his soup bowl haircut) on the production. I really despise this sort of Hollywood nepotism, unless it actually fits within the scheme of the story (i.e. casting the boys as brothers within the story). I suppose it's unfair for me to take this out on the film itself, but it did stick in my craw. As far as Roxanne Hart, I thought she did well enough up until the point when her character started wigging out, with very little incentive. The basis for her freak seemed less than necessary, at least prior to the sequence involving her and the shower (the water heater kicked into overdrive). I think my favorite performance came from character actor Charles Tyner, as the nutty old man/contract laborer working on the death house across the street. His role was nothing new, as horror films often feature a curmudgeonly old timer issuing a dire warning based on some knowledge garnered solely on the basis of having lived longer than anyone else, but I never tire seeing it... Golding's direction works well enough (even if his story faltered a little), as he does manage to create suspense in a few scenes, even if the logic behind the scene wasn't readily apparent. If you enjoy countless scenes of a young Joey Lawrence sticking his nose where he shouldn't, extreme close ups on circuitry and melty solder, and appliances acting strangely on their own accord, then you're in for a real treat here.
The widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic picture on this DVD looks very good, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo comes through clearly (hear that electricity crackle!). There are no extras included, except for a standard listing of unrelated trailers of other Sony Pictures DVD releases (Sony purchased the MGM library sometime last year) including the dreadful Frankenfish (2004), Devour (2005), Vampires: The Turning (2005), and the television miniseries Kingdom Hospital (2004).