Graham Baker | 1984 | 91 mins | USA
I purchased Impulse for a buck or two from a VHS rack outside the local BMV a few weeks ago because the back cover entertainingly promised a tale about "desperate lovers caught between terrifying fantasy and brutal reality". I was totally unprepared for the incredible gem Impulse would turn out to be.
Jennifer (Meg Tilly) and Stuart (Tim Matheson) are an upwardly mobile couple who return to her hometown after her mother's unexpected (and failed) suicide attempt. The town is recovering from a minor earthquake, but the young couple can feel that there's more going on than just a few aftershocks.
As time passes, a sinister recklessness seems to grip everyone around them - people are losing their inhibitions and willfully disregarding social conventions, as if every internal filter and censor had been switched off. A parking spot misunderstanding turns into full-on road rage, a child's prank nearly turns a farmhouse into a towering inferno and a young man's fit of barroom jealousy provides one of the most intense moments ever committed to film.
Bizarre, unsettling and self-destructive behaviour abounds as Jennifer and Stuart try to understand what is happening around them without being swept up themselves. Impulse manages to be both explicit and suggestive at the same time, walking the fine line between suspense and horror.
There's a creepy subplot involving Jennifer's brother Eddie (Bill Paxton doing his very best Angry Young Man) that's fascinating even though it's left barely explained.
If Impulse came out in 2009 (I envision Christian Bale in the Matheson role), very little would need to be updated for it to be one of the best suspense films of the year. Seriously worth seeking out!