Opening with a grizzly murder-suicide, Bad Impulse pushes audiences through their worst fears and darkest desires in a gripping thriller. Set in a mild suburban neighborhood, the Sharpe family lives comfortably until the father, Henry (Grant Bowler), takes the fall for a loss at his job. When the wronged party beats Henry to a concussion, the Sharpe family feels more vulnerable than ever. In the wake of the assault, a mysterious salesperson (Paul Sorvino) arrives offering what they need the most: security, but what is the true cost of security?
With a new security system and outlook on life, the Sharpes live in relative peace until strange mood swings of aggression, paranoia, power, and lust overtake the lovely Sharpe family. Henry’s daughter Angela (Abbi Ford), begins a streak of thefts, his son Mike (Nicholas Danner) becomes increasingly violent, and his wife Christine (Sonya Walger) succumbs to lust. As the family spirals and outbursts become frequent, violence erupts as the Sharpes begin to give in to all their bad impulses.
“…the Sharpe’s live in relative peace until strange mood swings of aggression…”
Director Michelle Danner takes notes from several some of the best thrillers and horror films throughout Bad Impulse. The way the security system wreaks havoc on the Sharpes is a remnant of Cabin in the Woods, and the climaxing showdown in the house takes several beats from The Shining (even borrowing a few shots from it). By taking notes from the greats, Danner creates tension throughout the film subtly, giving plenty of clues to the audience to stay engaged but never enough to lose interest.
Since watching Cabin in the Woods, I have found myself loving thrillers where the characters are manipulated into classic horror tropes, which makes the great concept of Bad Impulse even more intriguing. However, when centering the film around so many characters, it is sometimes difficult to get to know everybody and empathize with them. The Sharpes actually have three children and a nanny, but we never really see how the system affects their behavior beyond the occasional moment. The film is entertaining. However, juggling several stories and motivations often undercut the motivations of characters or leave them completely unexplained.
The highest compliment I can give Bad Impulse is that it is always engaging. All of the actors play into their horrors and impulses with conviction and elevate the film. The nods to classic thrills are subtle and keep you engaged while also subverting expectations. Beyond needing to flesh out a few characters, Bad Impulse is a solid thriller, with a very Faustian Paul Sorvino and a brief Rebecca Black appearance.
"…nods to classic thrills are subtle and keep you engaged while also subverting expectations."