Studio: Level 33 Entertainment
Director: A.J. Rickert-Epstein
Writer: Renae Geerlings, Tyler Mane
Producer: Tyler Mane, Renae Geerlings, A.J. Rickert-Epstein
Stars: Tyler Mane, Muse Watson, Derek Mears, Leslie Easterbrook, Renae Geerlings, Daniel Roebuck, Todd Farmer, Jelly Howie, Susan Angelo, Alex Saxon
The Wolffsen family learns that their demented patriarch’s warnings about a supernatural evil have a connection to secrets from their past.
My greatest gripe with “Compound Fracture” is that it induced a severe bout of writer’s block, forcing me to mull over the movie for far longer than necessary only to restart this opening paragraph several times. My thoughts about the film are clear. The issue is that it is an easy thriller to dismiss as mediocre, with little leaving an impression as particularly exciting or particularly horrendous. But there is sincerity in the filmmaking intent that does not deserve to go unappreciated. Finding the right balance to explain why the movie does not fully work without undermining the effort behind the scenes is a somewhat tricky matter.
“Compound Fracture” almost comes together as a slightly different spin on the vengeful ghost scenario, and does manage to stay relatively compelling by delivering its tale in bits and pieces meant to introduce mystery and suspense. Yet what happens is that while familiar threads of familial abuse and haunted pasts seem initially fresh with the fractured storytelling, the loose approach to a cohesive narrative is only able to hide the structural flaws for a limited amount of time.
“Compound Fracture” opens with a flashback sequence showcasing some sort of blood ritual taking place against a tapestry that features a wolf baying beneath a quarter moon. One of the first lines from the opening narration then mentions that the group depicted takes “the idea of a pack very seriously.” In retrospect given where the story goes, he may have been saying “pact,” but I listened to it more than once and could not be certain either way.
Now maybe it is the fault of my subconscious for associating bearded lead actor Tyler Mane with Sabretooth in Bryan Singer’s “X-Men.” But toss in the additional fact that the family in the film is named Wolffsen and all signs so far point to “Compound Fracture” being set up as a werewolf thriller. I don’t know if that was an intentional misdirection, but that is how it framed itself, even though that is certainly not what the movie is. While patiently waiting for someone to sprout fur and fangs that never come, “Compound Fracture” instead develops into the story of a dysfunctional extended family with no shortage of troubling skeletons hiding in their collective closet.
Since his sister’s murder, Michael and his fiancée have taken in Michael’s aloof emo nephew. It’s been 20 years since estranged son Michael last visited the Wolffsen family compound where patriarch Gary holds court with his unorthodox Norse occultism beliefs. When Michael returns with his new family in tow, he is not overly surprised to learn that the dementia-riddled old man has covered the house with markings and homemade bric-a-brac meant to ward off evil. Gary has a cryptic warning about a supernatural presence stalking the Wolffsen clan, and they soon discover that this evil spirit has a haunting connection to the deaths of Michael’s sister and her abusive husband William.
Written and produced by Tyler Mane and his wife Renae Geerlings, both of whom also co-star, “Compound Fracture” is the inaugural release from their Mane Entertainment production company. Often when actors call in favors to create a project for themselves, it comes off as a vain indulgence designed more for their own entertainment than anyone else’s. Mane and Geerlings, on the other hand, are not overreaching their creative abilities or acting talents and maintain reasonable goals for their low-budget horror film by keeping it focused on psychological mood.
It could very well be that Mane’s beefy frame and frequently inarticulate roles have him unjustly pigeonholed as a hulking stuntman good for putting behind a mask or under a wig and little more. “Compound Fracture” might be his best shot at finally proving he can bring more than muscle mass to a role.
While it is true that Mane’s character wears a perpetually grumpy scowl and delivers nearly all of his lines through a teeth-clenched grimace, it is behavior that fits the persona. His is a performance that gives the character what is called for, and Mane puts believable flesh onto a personality that the script undercuts as something more stereotypical than how Mane embodies it. Mane is not the only actor giving more life to the movie than the screenplay does. Everyone on the cast and crew puts forth a similar level of passion that says they believe in the project and want it to succeed.
In the end though, it isn’t the talent that lets down the material, but the material that sabotages the dedicated efforts and gives “Compound Fracture” an impression of being only slightly better than average. No matter how solid the performances are, there is little the cast can do to crack the restrictive shells of clichéd characterizations and a plotline that pulls disparate elements together only to boomerang back into done before territory.
Alcoholic father with physically abusive tendencies who raised his kids strictly before they grew to resent him. Sullen teenager disrespectful of authority. The cloth these kinds of people are cut from has toweled off dozens of similar stories and this one doesn’t do much new with it either. And as much as horror fans enjoy Derek Mears and his imposing screen presence, putting him in a simple black hoodie with his head tilted down and his eyes looking up is not enough to amplify the scare factor sufficiently.
Missing a measure of personalized oomph that might have given it a memorable edge, “Compound Fracture” falls into that category of movies you want to like more than you do simply because the filmmakers are giving it an honest go. Shaking the story’s timeline by doling out the backstory in pieces keeps the audience off balance and interested momentarily. Unfortunately, the story turns out to be an extended act of talkative exposition delivered piecemeal. And the movie buckles first in the waiting game when the viewer’s patience for a payoff wears off before the movie provides one.
Review Score: 60