Fatal Pulse 1988 Review
Fatal Pulse 1988
Directed by: Anthony J. Christopher
Starring: Joe Estevez, Michelle McCormick, Ken Roberts
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
There’s no doubt about it, the slasher boom of the eighties should always be traced back to the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween. Hot on its heels though, were two other key genre pieces that also became outlines for copycat titles to follow. Friday the 13th must take its share of credit for launching the mass of killer in the woods titles, which included Don’t go in the Woods, Just Before Dawn, The Prey and more recently Camp Blood et al. Another offering that can also be attributed with generating a long line of mostly inferior imitations is Amy Holden Jones’ Slumber Party Massacre. Despite being initially received unenthusiastically by critics and audiences alike, Jones’ splatter flick eventually managed to achieve cult status and went on to inspire the likes of Sorority House Massacre, The Last Slumber Party, Blood Sisters, Cheerleader Massacre and Anthony J Christopher’s Fatal Pulse from 1988.
Sororities were never a safe place during the eighties and Fatal Pulse is no exemption to that rule. After co-eds begin turning up murdered around the campus, Jeff Kramer (Ken Roberts) is immediately put in the frame when it is revealed that he was the last person to see one of the victims before she was slaughtered. Aided by his lumbering buddy Mark (Blair Karsch), Jeff sets out on a mission to prove his innocence and catch the psychopath before he kills again. As the bodies pile up, Jeff begins to realise that his girlfriend Lisa (Michelle McCormick) could be next on the assassin’s list.
Fatal Pulse is truly a bizarre movie experience, which combines moments of mediocrity, stupidity, inadvertent comedy and uncomfortable brutality to conjure up a somewhat authentic juxtaposition. Technically, we are in amateur-ville once again and the performances from the unknown cast are completely awful. The hero of the feature (Ken Roberts) was the worst offender and boasted the expressive fluency of a turnip. Seriously, I have seen wooden bridges with more emotional definition. Michelle McCormick made for an incredibly unapproachable final girl and pretty much everyone involved delivered their lines with the conviction of a toilet cleaner on the day before retirement. They were not helped by a woefully uninspired script, which added just about every stereotype from the annals of bad-movie obscurity. Brad the obnoxious ‘tough guy’ was characterised as some kind of odd fifties ‘Grease’ throwback, whilst the token comic relief inclusion, Mark, was greeted by a peculiar ‘Boing!’ effect in the soundtrack upon his every arrival. Strangely enough, this even occurred during a suspense scene towards the film’s conclusion. Boing!
Director Anthony Christopher mimics the giallo titans of yesteryear, by conveying every murder from the view of the black gloved assassin. Mario Bava was a master of creating artistic suspense in his set pieces, whereas Christopher fails to generate even a millisecond. Despite the disappointedly fast-paced nature of the murders, the merciless brutality of them does provide a somewhat reverse spiral on the quality of the feature. Even heavily financed slashers such as Friday the 13th failed to add convincing viciousness to their slaughters. Despite being laughably lacklustre in almost every department, Fatal Pulse is surprisingly sadistic in the way it draws out the suffering of its victims. The electrocution sequence was particularly mean spirited and ruthless. But any fear factor that could have been gained by a particularly savage antagonist is cheapened and therefore ruined by the fact that *every* female victim manages to flash her heaving breasts before being executed. An advertisement for feminism in the slasher industry Fatal Pulse certainly is not.
The score also becomes an irritation with consistent screeching synthesizer accompaniment, whilst the less said about the ‘jazz band on acid’ intro music, the better. As Fatal Pulse is a bad eighties movie, it characteristically offers its share of bad eighties movie moments, which have become lovably nostalgic for many retro cheese fans. Part of the story involves an un-engaging romance between the two emotionless leads. There are plenty of inadvertent laughs to be had when the couple go cycling to the strains of an eighties pop monstrosity. Also watch out for a bizarre and somewhat inexplicable scene involving comic relief character Mark (Boing!) and a Captain Marvell outfit. I won’t ruin it for you by explaining it here, but it almost beggars belief.
The killer does have a fairly intriguing motive and to be fair the last 15 minutes manage to add the smallest possible dose of intrigue to the final chase sequence. But it’s tough to recommend Fatal Pulse for any kind of recognition as it is just too poorly conceived.
Another that has been completely overlooked on DVD, I think that even the most loyal slasher fan will find it tough to sit through. It does include some interesting killings (one girl has her throat sliced by a 12″ vinyl – WHAT?), but the lack of suspense, chills or shocks mean that there’s very little to like. It just seems so carelessly misogynistic that it leaves a sour taste in the throat.
Final Girl: √