The human Mandela Effect that is Wrenage returns with another mighty Retro Review. He claims to be from the US, we are as convinced that he was from Australia as we are in the Monopoly Man’s monocle! It doesn’t matter, he still gives good review. Here is his latest – Compulsion.
Streaming gives one easy access to lots of films they missed, but it can be mind-numbing to sift through filler content. Some nights I listlessly scroll through titles for up to half an hour and watch nothing. Yet, once in a while…a plot summary catches my eye.
“Compulsion (2016), 85 minutes, IMDB Score 3.8: after a fight with her boyfriend, a successful female erotic novelist on a book tour of Europe joins her ex and his female friend, with whom she falls madly in love, for a party at a castle owned by a dangerous cult.”
That sounds like three movies smashed into one! Could they be crazy enough to pull it off, and in only 85 minutes? The 3.8 rating says otherwise, but I have to know…
Narrator: “They did not pull it off.”
Compulsion was bad and not a good bad, like Howling V, which overcame a coin-jar budget by borrowing plot from Agatha Christie. Compulsion also wasn’t bad like Jurassic Park: Dominion, which threw all of its legacy, talent and money into a blender, dumped the resulting slurry into an enema bag and forced it up viewers’ backsides.
The only way to describe the badness of Compulsion is to paraphrase an Adam Sandler movie.
“At no point in your rambling, incoherent [runtime] were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational [film]. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having [watched you]. I award you no [stars] and may [Rotten Tomatoes] have mercy on your soul.”
Let’s dive into this used-band aid of a movie.
Compulsion opens with sex between Female Erotic Novelist and Boyfriend, who looks like he could have been in an Underworld movie, if they needed a character to hand Kate Beckinsale a menu.
The sex is so forbiddingly erotic that you can almost hear the sighs of a thousand overweight single women who own four cats each. Choking is involved. “Tighter!” Female Erotic Novelist says. Eventually, shame orgasms happen. Boyfriend tries to tenderly touch Female Erotic Novelist’s hair. She will have none of it, and they stare into the angsty unknown.
Next, Female Erotic Novelist gives a reading from her latest book to a roomful of people who have probably never eaten at McDonalds. They look uppity enough to own tapestries.
“I measured my lover’s gaze, both dangerous and exciting. I discovered pain and pleasure can only be found on the surface, but love breaks through…”
This is a woman you don’t want to be in a relationship with. You just know you would wake up one night with her standing over you, holding a knife and saying, “I want your blood inside me.”
Female Erotic Novelist’s Ex-Boyfriend shows up and engages her in dialogue that was surely cribbed from Fiona Apple lyrics.
“We were pathetic together.”
“We were perfect together.”
Underworld Waiter wants to know if he treats Female Erotic Novelist like a whore, as her ex did, will she love him more? The answer to the question is more sex, so, yes. But then she leaves to go to a club with Ex-Boyfriend, so…no…
Do we care? No one in this movie cares. Compulsion is populated by nihilists who find fulfillment in cryptic, pseudo-intelligent dialogue that laments their lack of fulfillment. The club is an illustration of this fact. The attendees are dressed in slouched black and drink wine. If someone plonked a foosball table in their midst, they’d collapse to the floor with blood running from their eyes.
Instead, their entertainment of choice is a masked lady who dances like a retarded monkey on valium trying to do Tai-Chi. Female Erotic Novelist is so moved by this that she must meet this wunderkind of expressionist twerking. Sparks fly.
Female Erotic Novelist, Tai-Chi Dancer and Ex-Boyfriend end up at a castle. The girls flit-flirt among the statues, marble floors, candles and paintings. Tai-Chi Dancer reveals she wants to be an actress. She has even sent monologues to talent agencies. Female Erotic Novelist would love to hear one.
“Last night, I wept. I wept because the process of becoming a woman was painful…”
Never has Female Erotic Novelist met someone so deep who doesn’t wear black nail polish and listen to The Cure. Her attraction grows.
Ex-Boyfriend offers the girls drugs. Tai-Chi Dancer has a bad trip. Female Erotic Novelist wants to bring her down with orange juice and goes to search for some. Finally, some sort of goal has appeared in this movie. Will Female Erotic Novelist be successful in her quest?
Female Erotic Novelist ends up in a library and finds a big red book. The book has pictures of dead people and a naked woman inside of it. Surely, this means something.
Narrator: “It doesn’t mean anything.”
Ex-Boyfriend appears and chokes Female Erotic Novelist. “Tighter!” she gasps…and then slaps Ex-Boyfriend. Truly, this woman is as stable as the dynamite in Sorcerer. Ex-Boyfriend coyly says:
“As dangerous as ever.”
And all I’m wondering is, What about the orange juice?
Morning comes, and Tai-Chi Dancer continues with the monologues.
“I dreamed I was on a beautiful stage, performing a play written just for me. It felt like the whole world was watching. And you wrote the play. Yada yada yada. Can I kiss you?”
Female Erotic Novelist and Tai-Chi Dancer get it on. The camera turns upside down. So artistic, so emotional, so much face touching, so many anguished expressions of pleasure and tears on the verge, like it is some sort of quasi-spiritual experience instead of trash.
At last, the cult members show up. They stand around in fancy dress, look bored, drink wine, do drugs and break into an orgy with all the energy of people going to the dentist. A girl in white gets her throat cut. The cult members don’t even perk up for that. The sacrifice is basically like canned corn at a buffet: expected but perfunctory.
Eventually, Erotic Female Novelist tries to flee the castle, only to end up being chained in a dungeon. Could the movie finally be getting exciting? Could Erotic Female Novelist somehow become a character that manages to overcome challenges by her own wits?
Nope, Ex-Boyfriend releases her. I want to swear at this movie so bad, but I promised to never swear at a TV again after the 2009 NFC Championship Game between the Vikings and Saints. On the bright side, Compulsion is dismal, yes, but still not as dismal as the Minnesota Vikings’ postseason success rate.
Underworld Waiter shows up. He is to be the next sacrifice. The movie uses Mozart’s Requiem. They are really trying to convince us they have an important tale to tell, aren’t they? I’m against euthanasia, but I feel like smothering this movie with a pillow.
Underworld Waiter is all trussed up and ready to be sacrificed. A hooded woman comes out and offers Erotic Female Novelist the knife. She says:
“It’s him or us.”
As if there is some sort of choice to be made. Female Erotic Novelist basically has the option of life with cryptic, disassociated cult members or a man she treats like dirt. Sophie, she ain’t.
And who could this hooded woman be? Tai-Chi Dancer, of course. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a monologue about her hood. Something like:
“I wear this mask to hide the essence of womanhood from the little girl inside of me, who is so scared and so scarred…”
The solution to all of this is that Erotic Female Novelist kills Ex-Boyfriend. She escapes through some underground tunnels and ends up in a church. A priest is there. He asks:
“Have you confessed your sins?”
Some more cryptic dialogue ensues that is trying to trick you into thinking you are watching an intelligent movie, and the next thing you know, Erotic Female Novelist is in New York City doing another book reading.
“Pain was now her identity. She was so afraid to let go, so she gripped tighter, although, even in death, he found a way to haunt her. Pain is something to master.”
Tai-Chi Dancer is in the audience and tells Erotic Female Novelist she “will come back to them. It is inescapable.” Not sure why it that outcome is inescapable. The cult has nothing to offer but standing around in a castle they probably keep at 65 degrees to save on heating bills.
Ex-Boyfriend also pops in, even though he is dead. So maybe it is all a dream? A metaphor for co-dependent relationships? An allegory for crap?
In answer, Erotic Female Novelist stares hauntingly into the camera. I don’t think she knows either…
Normally, I would write a bit about the actors/actresses, writers and directors of movies I watch, but Compulsion broke me. I don’t want to put that much effort into it. Watching it all the way through was more about giving myself a refreshed definition of bad. With the state of today’s cinema, it becomes easy to forget that bad has many subtle layers.
I would say today’s films are more bloated, misguided and messy than bad. They also have a tendency to forget storytelling is about delivering simple truths, rather than being delivery vehicles for propaganda. But Compulsion was just plain bad, folks.
None of the characters were likeable. No real plot existed. Pretension was pawned off as depth. The main character, Erotic Female Novelist, did nothing, nor did the movie throw any real challenges at her to do something with, which is on the writer. The most proactive thing Erotic Female Novelist did was go off to look for orange juice, and the movie didn’t even follow up on whether or not she obtained it.
Movies like Compulsion are why I listlessly scroll through titles on streaming services. Once you’ve picked over the good stuff, all that remains is this dreck. On one hand, streaming keeps movies worth watching alive for new generations. On the other hand, streaming keeps movies alive that should probably be left for dead. You got to take the good with the bad, and Compulsion was bad — bad as the pain and pleasure that can only be found on the surface of a woman weeping over the play you wrote about mastering pain…
Narrator: “ZERO stars”