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"Given the title and DVD cover art (it shows stars Tim Matheson and Meg Tilly sort of looking up each others noses) for the film Impulse (1984), one might assume this to be a romantic thriller of sorts but it's really a sinister little piece of celluloid that asks the audience to imagine a place where people suddenly started acted on their impulses, doing whatever they wanted whenever they wanted...directed by Graham Baker (Omen III: The Final Conflict, Alien Nation), the film stars Tim `Otter' Matheson (Animal House, Fletch), who also did the voice for Jonny Quest in the 1964 television cartoon series among other things, along with Meg Tilly (Psycho II, The Big Chill). Also appearing is Hume Cronyn (Shadow of a Doubt, Lifeboat), John Karlen (Trilogy of Terror), Claude Earl Jones (Used Cars, Evilspeak, Bride of Re-Animator), Lorinne Vozoff (Chaos Theory), and Bill Paxton, prior to his breakout role in John Hughes 1985 film Weird Science as the smarmy antagonistic brother Chet Donnelly.
The story begins in what looks like a small, Californian town with shots of various animals acting peculiar, followed by a rather minor earthquake...you see, animals possess sensitivities much greater than that of humans, therefore imminent natural phenomenon can cause strange behavior in said animals...we then cut to establishing scenes in some major metropolitan city featuring both Matheson and Tilly, one showing Matheson's character, named Stuart, operating on a patient in a surgery room, the other showing Tilly's character, named Jenny, practicing ballet. Turns out the two are a couple, and after a disturbing phone call from Jenny's mother (Vozoff), one that ends with mom doing something completely unpredictable, the couple takes a trip to Jenny's small hometown, the same place that recently had the earthquake, where Stuart gets to meet the family, including Jenny's father Bob (Karlen), and her brother Eddie (Paxton), along with the local doctor named Carr, played by Cronyn. There's a bit of mystery behind the recent injury suffered by Jenny's mother, but this is soon overshadowed by strange behavior among some of the residents of the small town in that their actions seem to be those of impulse, with no regards for the consequences, including old men urinating in the streets, petty theft, actions based on uncontrolled rage, and public displays of lustful affection. Soon these relatively minor events become more and more common (and serious), and Stuart suspects a possible infection, but his efforts to discern the source of the madness are hampered by the ever increasing violent activity of the citizens, turning it into a veritable thunderdome, and also the very real possibility that he, himself, may be infected...
This was an interesting film, but overall it felt like something that wasn't quite cooked long enough, like a half finished episode of the X-Files, sans Mulder and Scully. The increasing severity of the impulsive behavior among the townspeople was an fun aspect, because you have all these seemingly normal people doing things completely unexpected, and there was always the question of how far it would end up going (it went further than I thought). As others have mention, something much like this story has been done previously with George Romero's 1973 film The Crazies, although as you might expect, that film features a lot more violence, while Impulse obviously exhibits a larger budget and better production values and was produced for a more mainstream audience. I did like the `loose' feel of the story, but I felt no real connection to any of the characters. While I think both Matheson and Tilly are good actors, there wasn't a whole lot of chemistry between their characters, something I'd attribute more to the script rather than the performers themselves. And why did there seem so little interest in what happened to Jenny's mother shortly after the film begins? I would have thought such a bizarre action from a relatively normal and well-balanced (I'm assuming these last bits) individual would have raised a number of red flags, not to mention the increased unrestrained activity among some of the townspeople (not everyone in the town suffered from the unknown affliction). While there is dialog in the film, its overall effect felt minimal to me, as it seemed the director's intent was to tell much of the story through visuals (the opening sequences will make little sense until you get further into the film). This did work to some degree, but it's like building a brick wall without using any mortar...you can do it, and it may stand, but it will tumble due to lack of solidity. For those interested, there is some nekkidness in the film, but none from Ms. Tilly...what we do get is a full moon shot from Mr. Matheson. I don't mind male nekkidness in a film, but at least offset it with some of the female kind. There's a reason why female nekkidness is more prevalent in films over male nekkidness and that's because women's bodies are generally much better looking than men's bodies...that and the fact most of the films are made by men, but I digress...I think my favorite scene from the film featured the local sheriff, played by Jones, as he's pursuing a vandalism suspect and ends up doing something which I'm sure many law enforcement officials would probably love to do at least once, perhaps not with regards to such a minor offence, but still...the ending was good, a little unexpected, but looking back on it, it seemed a very realistic, if not frightening, reaction to the situation.
The picture quality was very good, what of it I could see as the only version available on this DVD is the full screen, pan and scan format (1.33:1), the same one featured in the earlier Anchor Bay release. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio comes through clean and clear. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French, but as far as any real special features, there are none.
Oh, by the way, did anyone else think it strange that Stuart and Jenny should take a bus to travel to Jenny's hometown? Especially since Stuart is some kind of medical doctor? "
WEIRD, QUIRKY, AND COMPELLING...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 06/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the quiet, little, rural town of Sutcliffe in Anywhere, USA, its citizens are suddenly freed from all constraints. They begin acting out their unspoken thoughts. They lose all self control. The town goes from being an idyllic, sleepy little pueblo to a hot bed of sex, murder, and raging testosterone. All its citizens seem to be acting on impulse.Meg Tilly and Tim Matheson star as a young couple in love in this unsung film. Their world is turned upside down, when Meg's mother does something unspeakable. Suddenly, it is as if their entire world has gone awry. Look for Hume Cronyn who is wonderfully cast as the trusted, family doctor. See what he does when he gets sick and tired of his patient, Meg's mother. A very young Bill Paxton plays Meg Tilly's brother. Trust me, he has his own problems. See what happens to Tim Matheson, when he gives in to a sudden impulse. Will true love win out? Watch the film and find out for yourself. It is well worth viewing. This movie is reminiscent of a very good Twilight Zone episode. At times I felt as if I were waiting for Rod Sterling to interject himself into the film with a narrative. It is a very interesting and quirky film. Some of the scenes are quite startling. Those who enjoy sci-fi, horror, and off beat films, will enjoy this one."
Excellent 80's style movie.
J. G. Beasley | Shawnee, OK USA | 07/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was not a made for TV movie. I saw this at the theatre when it was released in 1984. What it is lacking in acting, it makes up for in substance. It presents a story of what could happen if we were to lose control of our Freudian "ID" or our impluse center. Everyone has experienced the rage response sometime in their lives. Having studied behavioral science for years this behavior has been duplicated in the laboratory. This is an excellent film for psychology students or anyone interested in human behavior. Since the government really does have a terrible problem with hazardous waste disposal, the implications of this film are very real."
Yoga Punguin | USA | 10/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I thought ten minutes into this I had stumbled upon a quiet little gem. By the time it was over I was wondering if it might be a mini-masterpiece of subtlety.
The acting was quite good. There are some flaws in the opening moments but the movie just got better and better while giving the audience some credit for brains. (That is becoming more and more rare in movies.)There was no need to emotionally explain what was happening - it was obvious something bizarre was going on.
There is a wordless moment between the male lead and a young girl that is G-rated visually but absolutely pornographic in its implication. I thought it was a brilliant shot.
Less is more seems to be the standard for this and I'm surprised by how much I liked it. The sense of horror builds and builds because the viewer is imagining it.
But... who knows? We're all different, eh? You may hate it. Perhaps one reason I liked it so much was the usually quiet music. The previous flick I watched had some dreadful heavy metal."
Mayberry Comes Unglued...
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 06/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A small, quaint town is hit by an earthquake, resulting in the release of some sort of invisible gas. The townsfolk breathe it in and begin to lose all sense of propriety. Jennifer (Meg Tilly from Psycho 2 and Body Snatchers) and her boyfriend, Stuart (Tim Matheson from Sometimes They Come Back) arrive to investigate the bizarre behavior of Jenny's mum. The pair soon realize that something is seriously wrong in perfect-ville! People seem to have no self-control as they frolic, fight, shag, and generally misbehave. Jen and Stu are aghast! Even the town doctor (Hume Cronyn) has become a menace! The sheriff goes completely loco, chasing down a running kid in his patrol car and whipping out an assault rifle! Meanwhile, Jen's brother (played by Bill Paxton from Aliens, Near Dark, etc.) grows increasingly snotty and creepy. Can our cute couple find the answer before they too succumb to their darkest desires? Stay tuned 'til the end for a wicked little bit that certainly took me by surprise! Definitely worth owning..."