The Film: Compliance (2011) Buy it from CHUD
The Principals: Craig Zobel (writer/director), Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Ashlie Atkinson, Bill Camp
The Premise: A prank caller convinces the manager of a fast food restaurant that one of her employees has committed a crime and stollen. What follows is a ninety-minute full-body-cavity search.
Is it Good? It ain’t easy, that’s for damn sure. Becky (Walker), the embroiled employee, is forced into one nightmarishly salacious situation after another as Officer Daniels (Healy) compels Dowd’s manager character Sandra to confine Becky to the back room, remove all her clothes and subject her to all sorts of degrading, demoralizing tasks. Walker spends almost the entirety of the film wearing nothing but an apron as one by one the employees of the ChickWich are confronted with their reservations over what’s happening while still comfortable enough with it to do nothing. That someone can get away with this and that the human mind is in many cases all-too-willing to bow to authority of any kind makes what transpires all the more terrifying.
Is it Worth a Look? Absolutely. I don’t have to enjoy a film to know it’s important. And a large part of Compliance is informed by A) the knowledge that a lot of this actually happened and B) how willing human beings are to step out of themselves and let someone else take the wheel, even as the ethical and moral dilemmas presented aren’t enough to make these indoctrinated sheep wake up and save this poor girl from their own mental shortcomings. Absolutely worth your time, just don’t expect to feel good about the world or even yourself after watching. It’s the sort of film you need to take a shower after viewing.
Random Anecdotes: The film’s based around an all-too-real phenomenon, this shit happened. And Zobel’s not sensationalizing nearly as much as you would hope. Much of what transpires here occurred at a McDonald’s in Mount Washington, Kentucky, right down to the manager’s fiancé forcing oral sex on the confined subject. Jesus Christ.
But where Compliance would lead you to believe that Officer Daniels gets his proper comeuppance, alleged real life culprit David R. Stewart was tried but never convicted due to lack of evidence. David R. Stewart is married and father to five children. David R. Stewart David R. Stewart.
Cinematic Soulmates: 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Secretary, Crash, The Master, When a Stranger Calls (1979)