Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

With Bad Impulse, director Michelle Danner unleashes a super entertaining commentary on our technology-obsessed times. It begs the question: “are we no better than animals in the jungle?” Charting a seemingly perfect family unit, this horror thriller takes a fascinating approach to the thrills by leaving everything in their unstable hands. What is making them act so irrationally?

When Lou Branch (Paul Sorvino), who works on “cutting edge security for the private sector,” comes to visit him at his home, Henry (Grant Bowler) agrees to a quick five minutes. Lou makes him a promising proposal for a microchipped anklet that will allegedly completely solve the local home invasion security issues and will protect Henry and his family. Henry politely declines, but things take a turn the second he does. After rushing off to eat with his boss, Henry is fired, then ambushed in a break-in gone bad. This is the final straw—Henry decides to embrace this new IMP anklet system, taking his entire family in to get chipped. Each character’s behavior and attitude grows instantly more erratic and impulsive, bleeding into their everyday life. The looming and sinister presence of Lou Branch in the shadows confirms the darkest of suspicions: something is not right with the Sharpe family.

Every member of the Sharpe clan has their own distinct arc. We see how the chip effects each of them, sometimes positively but more than not, impulsively. The bullies at school beat and berate Mike (Nicholas Danner), so the chip makes him take a journey to stick up for himself. Henry sleepwalks after the chip’s implementation and spirals downward from the second he loses his job. Christine (Sonya Walger) is having an affair she tries to hide from Henry that will take her down her own twisted path. Angela (Abbi Ford) gets high with her trashy BFF (boredom “becomes her life”) and tries to get with the unattainable hottie from her class. Things take a dark turn very quickly. I found a last-minute reveal of the true nature of Paul Sorvino’s mysterious character to be very satisfying. 

Female director Michelle Danner displays a clear love for horror. On a first watch, I noticed a couple of really impressive horror references. A creepy turning chair reveal brought to mind Mother’s appearance in 1960’s Hitchcock masterpiece, Psycho. Another scene is very much The Shining, complete with a sinister-smirking bartender and his ‘advice.’ Whether either of these is intentional, it showed me that Danner is intelligent, and she really pays attention to her horror. 

Psychological horror with thrills and chills, as well as smart savvy commentary about technology and security from Jason Chase Tyrrell’s intelligent script, makes Bad Impulse a guilty pleasure you won’t want to write off. It blends together mystery elements and brings new meaning to the term ‘dysfunctional family.’ 

Bad Impulse begs you to give in to your temptations, out now on most streaming outlets.

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