Craig Zobel’s lastest film ‘Compliance‘ works wonderfully as a horror suspense film without any ‘found footage’, gore, or blood. It’s bound to get people feeling superior thinking they’d never let this happen to them.
‘Compliance‘ is that film that audiences will easily say, ‘how stupid can those people be?’, not wanting to think about how easy it is to do as your told when it’s an ‘authority figure’. Even Mark Wahlberg got into a heated mess saying in Men’s Health “If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did.” That’s much of the stir that got the audience whipped up today when Craig Zobel’s latest movie premiered this morning at the Sundance Film Festival.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking is quite our national pasttime, but Zobel holds up an interesting magnifying glass on our culture that is taught to immediately obey anyone who falls under the category ‘authority figure’. Just those two words have quite the effect on people, and we’re more apt to do whatever they say because of those two words even if it is abusive. That is the context of Zobel’s ‘Compliance‘.
The film based on actual events (and these feel much more real than most horror films claiming to be based on true events), takes place in a Midwestern fast food restaurant on a busy night when one employee (Dreama Walker) is accused of stealing and winds up being held in a stock room. The manager on duty (a brilliant Ann Dowd) takes instruction from an anonymous caller posing as a policeman and played well be Pat Healy who revels in the prank gone way overboard, and puts the employee through a process of being stripped of her rights and treated without any regard to decency. This is one of those stories that even got the ‘Law & Order: SVU‘ treatment, but Zobel pushes this in our face where one minute we’re chuckling at the preposterousness of it all and then feeling the sinking in our guts at how real it also is. Many audiences will immediately clamor to why isn’t anyone questioning the authority, but that takes us right back to how, in a post 9/11 world, it’s been drilled in our heads that questioning can cause more problems than just succumbing.
We know that in every horror slasher film the girl always winds up shooting or hurting the good guy and running into the arms of the killer making you feel superior knowing that you’d never do that, but after ‘Compliance’ was over and people were getting angrier, it was obvious that the seed was planted and people had that inkling thought that they might do the same under the same circumstances. When an audience gets that angry, the director knows he or she has done their job.
Casting more or less unknowns in ‘Compliance‘ adds to the tension of the film, and the parts are played to perfection as real. Walker is aware that her character is young and bound to be susceptible to following orders and Dowd plays the perfect fast food manager who has been trained by the corporate mentality of follow orders question nothing. After seeing and reviewing ‘West Of Memphis’, ‘Compliance’ reminded me much of what railroaded the West Memphis Three into prison and on deathrow along with another great film ‘Das Experiment’ which was also based on true events and had grown men and women doing reprehensible things under those two powerful words ‘authority figure’. This film, while not perfect, is bound to get people laughing at the absurdity at first, but then quietly squirming when the reality begins to settle in.
Best Movies Ever Rating: A
‘Compliance‘ is a powerful film that at first looks to be absurdist humor, but then quietly pulls its punches on an unsuspecting audience. It’s horror without the blood, political thriller without the preaching.