Directed by Anthony Rickert-Epstein
Compound Fracture demonstrates what this writer loves about the world of independent horror- a surprising story, a solid cast of characters and performances that allow some genre vets to mix things up a bit, and a director who effectively gets under the viewer’s skin without needing a huge budget to fall back on.
At the beginning we meet Michael Wolffsen (Tyler Mane), who is traveling with his wife, Juliette (Renae Geerlings), and his nephew, Brandon (Alex Saxon), to the family estate for what is sure to be an unforgettable family reunion- Wolffsen hasn’t been home since he left as a teenager, and Brandon, who is dealing with the recent death of his mother, has no real interest in tightening up the family ties either as he’s still busy grieving.
When they arrive, the trio are met by the ultimate family compound with security measures in place that would no doubt give the Secret Service a run for their money; apparently Wolffsen’s father, Gary (Muse Watson), has always been the paranoid type but, it’s only been recently that it has escalated to intolerable levels for his wife, Annabelle (Leslie Easterbrook)- he’s now incorporated cameras into almost every single corner and inanimate object throughout in the house, he rarely speaks to her, and when he does, it’s mostly rambling on about ghosts and other “nonsense.”
But we learn, though, that Gary’s overbearing paranoia might just be well warranted as it doesn’t take very long for a deadly supernatural force (Derek Mears) to arrive at the compound, looking for a little revenge against the Wolffsen family. It’s up to reluctant hero Michael and his erratic father to put a stop to the ghost that is stalking them and bring their family together as a way to fight against their otherworldly foe.
While there’s a lot to admire and appreciate about Compound Fracture across the board, it’s seeing Mane come into his own not only as a producer and writer but as a performer, too, that really becomes the biggest revelation for this indie horror flick. We’ve seen him as the brooding bad guy, as Sabretooth in X-Men, and of course as Michael Myers for Rob Zombie’s Halloween 1 & 2; but in Compound Fracture Mane leaves all that at the door and gives a quietly nuanced and compelling performance that allows him to show off his acting chops with material that’s both mature and thoughtful.
Of course Mane is definitely playing another badass in Compound Fracture; it’s just not in the ways we’ve come to expect from him, which was refreshing and should hopefully open up some doors for him to get meatier, more character-driven parts like this in the future. Mane’s always been great in those roles; it was just nice to see him in something where he’s not playing another larger-than-life “big bad” chasing after a group of teenagers.
Mane’s co-writer and co-star Geerlings (his real life wife) wears several hats on this and didn’t seem to miss a beat due to her many tasks on the film. Clearly her experience in the comics world influenced her contributions to the script of Compound Fracture as what could have been a very simple tale of a family coming together to defeat a murderous ghost ends up becoming more layered and character-driven, with a nice level of tension building from start to finish.
Both Easterbrook and Watson are fantastic together in Compound Fracture, too; Easterbrook taps into her softer side here as a wife struggling to stay with her husband once his paranoia becomes too much for her, and Watson’s character, who is more animated and maniacal, makes for a nice counterbalance to Annabelle’s quietness, creating a pair of lovely and lively performances.
Up-and-coming filmmaker and cinematographer Anthony Rickert-Epstein does a great job on Compound Fracture as well; it’s definitely not a work without flaws, but as a whole, there’s a lot to appreciate about the way that Rickert-Epstein set up and framed his shots because the result is a movie that looks bigger than its budget. Rickert-Epstein also had his hands full keeping titans like Mane and Mears in frame while not losing any details along the way, and his work is admirable.
On the flip side, Compound Fracture does suffer from a few flaws; the film starts off a bit slow (Writer’s Note: The opening has now since changed since I’ve screened the film), and the editing could be tighter, especially during the film’s final act when the action really starts to pick up. We lose a bit of the action here and there, and a few of the cuts make it hard to follow along for a few minutes, but thankfully, Rickert-Epstein gets things back on track just in time for the ultimate showdown between Mane and Mears, with Compound Fracture ending both strongly and satisfyingly.
As a whole, Compound Fracture is a rather entertaining first outing from Mane Entertainment, Tyler’s new production shingle. These days, in a “been there, seen that” genre world where there seems to be very few surprises left for us fans, Mane and his co-writer Geerlings deliver a fantastic little supernatural revenge tale that should keep the indie genre fans out there pleased.
3 1/2 out of 5