At the tail end of Summer of 1984, an intriguing psychological thriller slipped in and out of theaters. Even though it had sex, murder, and small town insanity, season five episode 22’s Impulse was completely overlooked.There was simply no way it was ever going to make a name for itself with the incredible movie landscape of 1984.
Meg Tilly stars as Jennifer, a ballet dancer, who travels home with her doctor fiancé Stuart (Tim Matheson) when her mother attempts suicide. Her arrival finds her father Bob (John Carlen) and brother Eddie (Bill Paxton) are at each others’ throats more than usual. There’s something wrong; the small town and its people begin to seem menacing instead of quirky. As Jennifer and Stuart ask more questions, Dr. Carr (Hume Cronyn) agrees that the town is at its wits’ end. With people being killed in broad daylight, Jennifer worries neither she nor her loved ones will make it out alive.
Impulse was directed by Graham Baker and written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Nicholas Kazan. Though it may seem slow at times, the screen is masterfully painted by cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth. It’s a beautiful film with lots of sunlight and muted tones of a worn small town. The budget was more akin to a TV film, but this creative team made the most of what they were given (watch for an amazing arson scene).
Sure, Impulse is derivative. It’s also well acted and unique enough to be a worthy find. Med Tilly gives just enough naivety and subtle strength to make me, not a Tilly fan, want to find that film Impulse.