I almost don’t know what to say about Compliance or its expertly crafted and chilling trailer. This film disturbed me more than any horror movie I’ve seen in the past ten years. And it’s not even a horror flick. (First line from the film’s synopsis: “When a police officer tells you to do something, you do it, right?”) If you think you can handle it, don’t be surprised if you spend days, weeks or months haunted by this perverse indie gem.
Even if it’s based on true events and the findings of the infamous 1960’s Milgram Experiments, which tested people’s deference to authority, what you’re in store for here is a double whammy of incredulity. After you’re done cursing at the screen, insisting that no one would do that, the credits deliver another surprise: holy shit, was this made by Craig Zobel, the guy who made Homestar Runner, that harmless (and armless) but sharply satirical cartoon character from the early 2000s Internet? Yes, Strong Bad. Yes it was.
I had the luxury of seeing this film naked. By which I mean, without having seen any sort of previews for it. Its trailer almost perfectly captures the suburban darkness and nauseating anxiety of the film. Aside from a few clichés (the constant fades, the artificially slowed-down footage, the ubiquitous shot or scene that isn’t actually in the film, et al), this is a trailer that’s very faithful to the film it’s selling. Minimalist, grim, and horrifically normal.
The trailer may not lead audiences to boo or walk out of the theater or engage in a shouting match with the filmmakers, which is exactly what happened when the film debuted at Sundance this year. “The movie was beyond uncomfortable to view and elicited disgust, dismay, and a growing exodus of viewers,” wrote one audience member. It’s a controversial and challenging story that forces the viewer to cope with some very bleak and unfortunate realities of human nature. If the findings of the Milgram experiment bothered you, then get ready to have your faith in humanity all but completely destroyed. Compliance will receive a limited release in the United States beginning August 17.
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