Compliance - 2012 - Directed by Craig Zobel
There are dozens of horror films that come out every year that never elicit a scare out of me. Compliance, on the other hand, terrified me. It is deeply disturbing and depicts the subservience to power that so many people adhere to and presents a humanity many of us wish and would prefer to believe didn't exist.
Ann Dowd stars as Sandra, a middle aged manager of a fast food restaurant who believes in order and is shocked if others don't. When her restaurant runs out of pickles and bacon she is surprised that her employees, all teenagers, laugh about it and shrug it off. She believes that they believe in her cause of her position. One of the clerks, Becky (Dreama Walker), begins to whisper about her and she listens not to get Becky in trouble but to make sure Becky likes her.
A phone call comes in. It is a police officer, or so Sandra believes. He tells her that Becky stole from a customer about an hour ago and they have it on videotape. He tells her to get Becky and hold her until the police come. Sandra does as told and it sets in motion some of the most jaw dropping human behavior I've ever seen on film. Its also based on a true story (I looked it up online and apparently everything in the movie ACTUALLY happened. No artistic license. The story was also covered by major news networks when it happened.) The kicker is, the "police officer" is not real. He is just impersonating one. No one ever questions him until finally one man decides this is not right.
Meanwhile, Becky is held against her will and subjected to a strip search, mentally tortured and ordered to do sexual acts by the "police officer." That everyone, much less anyone in this film, would do everything as they are told is disturbing. Sandra never questions the police officer. Never asks what precinct he is in, his badge number, how he got the videotape, nothing. At one point, when her fiance clearly does not want to be involved, she scolds him for not obeying.
Everyone reacts to authority differently. Sandra blindly obeys. Becky protests but gives in rather easily rather than facing the consequences of bucking authority. Sandra's fiance eventually relents when he realizes the "police officer" has beholden him with so much power. A couple other employees whisper that this possibly isn't right but go on about their job as in the end it doesn't affect them.
Don't get me wrong. Compliance is well made and well acted. I wish Director Zobel had held the reveal longer and made the audience question themselves about whether they knew this was a facade rather than watching it with utter contempt of the characters as I did and many others (there are many reports of people walking out of the theater when they watched this.) This is not a side of humanity I wish to watch. If it is your thing then enjoy. I for one didn't.
Rating: 4 out of 10