Written and directed by Brian Sepanzyk, as we follow an unknown man in his day to day life, we soon start to see the dark underside of what his compulsion is and what it drives him to do. To give in, the blood must flow. Starring: Jeffery Bjorgum, Eva Bourne, Dave Boyce and Bill Croft.
With society’s obsession with crime and murder only growing stronger by the day, following the life of a killer is always going to be a good start. However, Brian Sepanzyk takes a completely different route to tell this story, it’s not about his fatal actions but why he’s committing them. It’s an allegory of addiction, being compelled to kill, unable to deny the dark urges. It’s not entirely new but Sepanzyk frames it almost sympathetically which is unusual. It’s pushing you to see things from his perspective, to acknowledge a certain disgust in himself and resentment of his urges. While it’s an interesting tact to take, it does send mixed messages and ultimately feels less satisfying. As maudlin as it may sound, losing the thrill of the kill, sadistic or skilfully violent qualities does take away from the tone.
Although when you look at it through the lens of the direction, it’s a different story. The foundation of darkness is more strongly present, creating an almost Hammer horror, vampiric-esque tale. There’s a fantastic use of colour, the framing holds a nice dose of dread and impending fatality. It uses some classic devices of horror, from the timeline setup to quintessential lingering in the backdrop. The story and the style just don’t quite match up, they’re on the same road but they take different exits, one leaning into the violence and the other leaning away from it. However, it is very interesting to see how the potential in that direction moved forward into Brian Sepanzyk’s follow up short In the Shadow of God. With Compulsion, it has most of the raw ingredients but can’t find the right combination, whereas with In the Shadow of God, Sepanzyk found the intrigue and flow to go along with his strong directorial style.
It may be tricky getting that perfect balance but taking that out of the equation and just looking at Jeffery Bjorgum’s performance, it’s a very interesting portrayal. A lot of the sympathetic side to this story comes from the fear that he instils in this character. It’s not a straightforward confidence and malice like many other similar examples, there’s a clear inner conflict. It provides advantages and disadvantages to the story but it’s still a great performance to show the dual sides without simply making it the old Jekyll and Hyde story. There’s a resistance in the mix and it makes you want to see him either succeed in controlling his desires or just completely let loose. Although, he’s not the most subtle about his proclivities, so he probably wouldn’t get away with it for long.
Compulsion feels like an interesting exploration of addiction, skipping the drugs and booze in favour of serial murders. Though it does create an inherent issue of being unable fully embrace the sympathy or the violence which holds it back. However, the direction is captivating, it embraces a modern yet classic horror style which almost veers into vampire territory. As a debut short film, it was a strong start.