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by Jack Sommersby

"Slightly Underrated Goodie"
3 stars

With no box-office stars and a lackluster ad campaign, the movie came and went from American theaters but is worth seeking out on home video.

At the beginning of the fine psychological thriller Impulse, a minor earthquake causes some structural damage to a rural Midwestern farm community resulting in broken windows and disarrayed storefronts along with a sizeable crack in a concrete foundation on the outskirts of the town limits. It would seem to be of no great importance, but shortly afterward one of the citizens, the mother of Jennifer (Meg Tilly), places a call to her daughter in the big city and berates her for being a “child-whore bitch” who thinks she’s too good for her family roots, and then places a handgun to her head and pulls the trigger; Jennifer and her boyfriend Stuart (Tim Matheson), a resident surgeon, take the bus to her former home and find her mother hospitalized and hooked up to life support. At her family homestead, a milk farm, her father and younger brother can offer no explanation. Thus far the director, Graham Baker, a Brit making his feature-film debut, tactfully etches a portrait of a tight-knit town with parameters of creepiness: you can sense there’s something unnervingly off about the place without quite being able to place your finger on it; and Baker gives us another couple of shots of that cracked foundation and an incessant dripping noise around the milk facility that carries an oddly menacing sound. Has some kind of evil infiltrated this tranquil place? The day after their arrival Jennifer and Stuart witness awry goings-on in the downtown area: an elderly man urinates on a parked car; an impatient lady snatches money from a bank-teller window after the line she’s been waiting in for twenty minutes has closed. And then things start really escalating when the mother’s doctor, irate at tending to the mother’s bedpan, clamps down on her breathing tube for retribution; the sheriff, after a high-speed pursuit of a teenager damaging parking meters, shoots the youth dead on the street right across from a church whose patrons are piling out after morning services; and the customers in the town’s only bar take to hungrily fornicating by the pool tables. And all the while a mysterious van with government plates can be seen stealthily moving about. As Stuart observes, “It’s as if the censor in people has disappeared, so they’re acting on any urge that comes along instead of censoring.” And yet while Jennifer doesn’t seem to be affected, Stuart is exhibiting signs, as well, with the telephone lines suddenly dead and the only bridge connecting the town with the outside world destroyed. In its own understated kind of way, Impulse, despite the underdeveloped story and second-rate characterizations, is eerily affecting stuff. Graham and the writers have caught the tail end off such a fascinating subject that they manage to sustain it despite the clunky plotting, with just the right amount of information given out they manage to convey a sense of malevolence that gets under your skin. The movie has a you-are-there vitality that keeps you riveted from start to finish, and by the time the central plot twist arrives we can forgive it a perfunctory action conclusion that wraps things up. It also helps that the performances, especially Tilly’s and Hume Cronyn’s as the doctor, are persuasive. Impulse is far from a classic, but for fanciers of suspense with a couple of doses of originality thrown in, it fulfills its function well enough.

Though the DVD transfer is non-anamorphic, at least the good folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment have given it the letterboxed treatment.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19812&reviewer=327
originally posted: 05/16/15 18:35:11
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11/20/16 danR Well-done in almost every department. 4 stars
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  28-Sep-1984 (R)

  N/A (18)

  14-Mar-1985 (R)

Directed by
  Graham Baker

Written by
  Nicholas Kazan
  Don Carlos Dunaway

  Tim Matheson
  Meg Tilly
  Hume Cronyn
  John Karlen
  Bill Paxton

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