Bad Impulse Review- A Fun If Predictable Fall From Grace
Bad Impulse is a stylish thriller that relies on social commentary and good performances to elevate a well-worn premise.
Social commentary never goes out of style. Regardless of how many times we have seen it before, people never grow tired of watching all the horrible ways we can break bad. It’s especially enjoyable when we give ourselves an excuse. Circumstance made a monster, or the Devil made me do it, absolve us of the deed’s responsibility if not the crime. Agent Smith said it best in The Matrix. Humans are a virus. We consume and destroy with regard to little else than our comfort. Jason Chase Terrell’s film Bad Impulse is a new take on this time-tested classic. People rarely need more than a little push to go to the Darkside and boy, do we love to watch.
After a down on his luck financial guy is violently attacked in his own home, he hires a security company. Unfortunately, security comes at a steep price, and the very things he is trying to keep safe are now in grave danger. As things spiral further and further out of control, dark secrets and desires are revealed. Insecurities and old wounds are reopened as this family is pushed to their limit. There is no turning back now; in this deal, there is no trial period.
The lack of inhibition trope is a familiar one. Without technological intervention, some people still misbehave, particularly when they think no one is looking. The premise of Bad Impulse is not a new one. Where this film shines, however, is the cheeky delight of the Big Bads. They are mustache-twirling, side-eye staring, villains who revel in destroying lives. There is an insidious nastiness to the antagonists that is both disturbing and disarming. They are fun to watch. You likely will see the twist coming, as most of the plot points are shown in the trailer but the final moment is a fun one, and journeyman Paul Sorvino has a gravitas that sells the final prestige even if it is predictable.
A standout performance by James Landry Hébert as a lurker who seems to always be around at the absolute wrong time is phenomenal. He drives the tension even when there is very little. In part, that is because he appears at strange times in the film always propelling the family forward in their debauchery. He is the weird scientist prodding his test subjects on. Hébert has an electric quality to him that is reminiscent of a young Crispin Glover. The Stranger is twitchy and offputting and entirely too confident for as odd a character as he is. he steals every scene he is in, sometimes without uttering a word.
Leads Sonya Walger from Lost and ANON and Grant Bowler from Defiance both make the most of what they are given. They are professionals, and their addition to the cast brings legitimacy to the indie movie. Their children, played by Abbi Ford, Nicholas Danner, and Oscar Debler, are perfunctory but not as impactful as possible. None of them emote anything that draws more than mild concern despite a few very unsettling situations. The children act more as snapshots into a cartoon descent into mental illness rather than a frightening fall from grace.
Cinematographer Sandra Valde-Hansen shoots Bad Impulse well with several arresting moments than wring anxiety from writer Jason Chase Terrell’s script. Early on, Henry(Bowler) has a harrowing vision of things to come that is gorgeous and terrifying. There is also an interesting bit of imagery with ants that run as a throughline from beginning to end that is smarter than the superficial twist. Maybe humans are just cosmic ants in someone’s ant farm? It’s an intriguing thought and one that could have held up under scrutiny. As it is, you are left wanting more.
What happens when our basest instincts are indulged? Is everyone capable of being a monster if they are given enough of a push? Ultimately Terrell argues yes. Some fall hard, where others cling to goodness like a child’s blanket. Mike is merely encouraged to lash out after years of bullying. Bad Impulse doesn’t break new ground, but it is worth watching for a few key performances and a sensibility that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Director Michelle Danner knows exactly what kind of film this is and stays in that lane. That honesty keeps the movie from being trite and allows the viewer to enjoy the ride. Don’t overthink it, just enjoy the pretty trip paved with good intentions. You can stream it everywhere now.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.