Compulsiòn is Àngel Gonzàlez’s contribution to the erotic thriller and serial killer genres. The film opens with escort Fanny (Susana Abaitua) getting ready to meet her client, Robert (Paco Manzanedo). He picks up Fanny for a weekend in which she will give him the girlfriend experience. Upon arriving at Robert’s secluded estate, Fanny confides to him: “I prefer hotels, but you are my best client.” A remote place in the mountains with an unbalanced man? Echoes of The Overlook Hotel and Jack Nicholson play out in the audiences’ memory.
As expected, Fanny does not give specifics to friends and family that she is going to Robert’s estate. Once there, she stumbles upon the body of one of Robert’s victims, and the rest goes according to the typical slasher blueprint. The few wrinkles offered by the writer-director involve Robert’s double life. He lives a seemingly normal life with his partner, Esther (Marina Esteve), while at the same time being a murderer—recent documentaries and films on Ted Bundy and other real-life monsters reveal this aspect of Robert to be fairly consistent with actual serial killers. In addition, Esther might be pregnant. However, these few new angles do not inject enough innovation into what is essentially a film firmly anchored in its genre.
“…she stumbles upon the body of one of Robert’s victims…”
The performances of Compulsiòn are its strength. A closeup of Susana Abaitua’s terror-stricken face, when she realizes that she is trapped with a killer, conveys more panic than any dialogue or scream in the entire film. Paco Manzanedo also gives a noteworthy performance that displays his acting range. He is lukewarm toward his partner and goes through the motions of domesticity one minute. The next, he is a sadistic torturer. Marina Esteve effectively conveys a range of emotions, starting from dissatisfaction with Robert into the gradual, horrific realization that she is in a relationship with a killer. She becomes suspicious of her partner’s absence, tracks him down to the estate where he tortures and kills women, and gets caught in the bloodbath.
While the performances make the film watchable, the screenplay leaves a lot to be desired. The characters are not fully developed. In the case of Robert, the viewer is given a sadistic character without any background as to where and why that sadism sprouted. Gonzàlez’s screenplay fulfills all the genre requirements without adding anything new.
With Compulsiòn, we are not yet able to perceive a new voice or vision to come. What we get is a series of torture sessions, escape attempts, and pummelings directed at the female characters. Gonzàlez shows promise in terms of his camerawork and as far as directing his actors. We can only hope that his writing and character development improve whenever his next feature sees the light of day.
"…Abaitua's terror-stricken face...conveys more panic than any dialogue or scream..."