Back to the Drive-In: Impulse (1984)

There is nothing like going to the drive-in to shed your inhibitions. You take your girl/guy friend, grab a popcorn and a soda and move in real tight next to each other… f*ck it if the stick shift gets in the way. When things get creepy, you forget about the movie and end up making a movie of your own. Many a virgin was sacrificed at the movies as the moon hangs brightly in the sky and the crappy projection of some horror movie flickers on screen. Oh no, he forgot the condom!?! Ah well, things are much too hot and heavy, thus you give into your… wait for it…

IMPULSE (1984)


This weeks’ drive-in extravaganza is the little seen but thriller IMPULSE. Directed by Graham Baker, this quaint feature stars the underrated and especially lovely Meg Tilly (PSYCHO 2, ONE DARK NIGHT, AGNES OF GOD) as well as Tim Matheson from ANIMAL HOUSE and FLETCH fame. It also features a very young Bill Paxton in an exceptionally creepy role. The story begins when a lovely young girl named Jennifer (Tilly) gets a disturbing call from her dear old mom. Suffice it to say, it would be pretty messed up to get the weekly call from your mother and she begins calling you a filthy whore and then tries to off herself! Terrified and more than a little disturbed, Jenny and boyfriend Stuart (Matheson) make their way back to her hometown to find folks giving in to their deepest, darkest impulses.

Truth be told, IMPULSE is an effective enough slow burn. While it feels a bit like GEORGE A. ROMERO’S THE CRAZIES light, it still delivers a few solid moments of suspense. It helps a ton that both Tilly and Matheson give very credible and sympathetic performances. It was easy to root for the two love birds, even when things get wicked and Stuart gives in to an underage girl ready to give our boy some oral attention. Yet it is ultimately Tilly that keeps you hooked since she is the only sane one of the bunch. You’ve got some dude breaking his own fingers to impress a girl – I wonder if that works – and a doctor who loses his “patients” if you know what I mean. If you are checking this out on DVD, it’s a fine watch. The only problem is this just ain’t great “drive-in” material in terms of sex, scares and violence – not so surprising the production company behind this is ABC Motion Pictures.


If it’s hot and bothered you want… well, you’d better steam up your own windows because this may not light your fire. Aside from Tim Matheson showing his ass, we don’t get much when it comes to sex and nudity. To be fair, the one scene that heats things up is sort of a thrill as Stuart takes Jenny from behind just outside her parents’ house. Even after the cavorting couple is interrupted by her dear old dad momentarily, they continue to bang away the second he leaves. Sure pops is suspicious and he shows it, yet once he is gone they get extra sweaty as he lays her down. What makes this sexy is the look of desire the two actors have, even if they are faking it.


Unfortunately (or fortunately) there aren’t a whole lot of unintentional giggles here. The sickness taking over the town is handled in a somber and mostly efficient tone. However for the sake of this column, I’d have to go with the once normal mother (Amy Stryker) and her kiddies gone bananas. It should be pretty terrifying to be trapped in a burning garage by a bunch of bratty children. However that is not the case with this lazy sequence. It tries hard to be shocking but fails to generate more than a smile. Damn kids and their garage door openers!


Broken bones and crap freak me the f*ck out. I don’t care who you are, if some a-hole starts breaking his own fingers to prove to you what real pain is, it is pretty damn disturbing. IMPULSE doesn’t even show the damage this fool is doing, but the careful use of sound and the actors’ anguished screams as his fingers crack will - at the very least - have her face in your chest. You play your cards right, she could end up in your lap. Just get it done quick before the icky blow job scene which might kill anybody’s libido. You could also prove that you are a real man and break your own fingers as well… I kid, I kid!


When you have a feature film that feels a bit like a movie of the week, and it is produced by ABC Motion Pictures, you can’t be all that shocked that the score sounds like it came from the telly. This is not an insult however. Composer Paul Chihara – who had scored a number of television series’ before this - creates a stylish and effective score, one that adds to the eerie atmosphere of this infected small town. It adds a little class to a thriller that probably would’ve been right at home on the small screen aside from Matheson’s butt shot, a slightly steamy sex scene and a small heap of adult themes and language.


Meg Tilly has an ethereal quality to her. She is a unique beauty who is vulnerable and soft but she has the ability to fight back if she needs to. So if this were a double bill, I’d have to say that PSYCHO II would thrill you. Sure it didn’t it come close to Alfred Hitchcock’s original masterpiece, but Norman Bates returns and terrorizes Meg, or is she doing it to him? So many questions including when did Vera Miles character become such a bitch. If you are in the mood for a double dose of Meg, you could do worse than IMPULSE and PSYCHO II! If you aren’t, then you don’t know Meg and I feel sorry for you. However this recommendation comes with a warning… Meg Tilly uses a body double for the nudity in both films. But she’s so pretty that smile is enough to get your blood pumping.




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