(Graham Baker, USA, 1984)


The specialty of British-born director Graham Baker (Omen III: The Final Conflict [1981], Alien Nation  [1988]) is the subtle exaggeration of disquieting incongruities in the everyday world. The storyline of Impulse (not to be confused with Sondra Locke’s fascinating and equally unknown thriller of the same title from 1990) gives him the perfect opportunity to practice his craft.


One day, for no apparent reason, ordinary people start acting out of impulse, shedding all forms of civilised restraint. In most movies this would lead to grand dramatic gestures, either Utopia – free love for all, universal brotherhood and sisterhood, the end of wars and social divisions – or Apocalypse, the Pyrrhic triumph of humanity’s most evil, corrupted nature.


But Impulse refuses these options. Neither divine nor evil, Baker’s characters stay close to the banal ground of the everyday, even after they are liberated to act as they please. Although a little sexual license flowers in dark doorways around town, the main activity these ordinary folk impulsively indulge in is the acting-out of their peeved, spiteful fantasies – the kind of aggression that arises from life’s thousand and one daily, niggling irritations in the social world.


After the revolution, what happens in Impulse is that a typically harried bank customer is now willing to actually shoot the people in front of him to get ahead in the teller’s queue; or a little old granny, sick of waiting for the corner traffic light to change, gleefully rams her car into it.

© Adrian Martin December 1993 / April 2011

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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