[Review] COMPOUND FRACTURE – Sinister Tension Oozes Off the Screen

It’s been a long time since Michael Wolffsen (Tyler Mane) has been back to the family compound, and it’s not because his life away from home has been so fabulous he didn’t have time to look back. If anything he’s spent all those years obsessing over what he left behind, always worrying that someone or something would reach out from the past and drag him back.

And then he gets a phone call with a request he can’t refuse.

Right from the start, there is an ominous tone to Compound Fracture that just oozes off the screen. It’s not just the anticipation that secrets will be revealed as the movie progresses. It’s the way director Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein (Fingerman: Dr. London and the Triangle Force) controls the tension level in every scene to let the mystery work its way under your skin. For a horror movie, Compound Fracture takes a long time before letting anything ‘horrible’ happen, taking the time to explore the characters and their tangled relationships before letting the blood start to flow. It’s an interesting choice; too many genre films only introduce characters with enough detail to either make the audience boo or cheer when they get slaughtered. It’s a risky approach by Rickert-Epstein, but it pays off in the end.

Getting to know a character and learning to like them, though, are very different things. Except for the two women who aren’t blood members of the Wolffsen clan, there’s nobody likable in Compound Fracture. Michael is an angry and haunted man struggling to keep his emotions under control. His nephew, Brandon (Alex Saxon) is a poser hiding some deep emotional scars behind his overly-mascaraed eyes. And you know that family patriarch Gary Wolfssen (Muse Watson) is insane the minute he appears on the screen. So all you can do is try to guess if his madness is clinical, spiritual, or something much worse.

There’s a fourth character dominating Compound Fracture, William (Derek Mears), the wrathful spirit of Brandon’s dead mother, whom he murdered in front of his son, igniting the curse of the Wolfssen clan. Without any makeup or costume beyond some white powder on his face and a black hoodie to frame it, Mears makes William menacing in a classic horror movie kind of way, You’re scared whenever he shows up because of the nasty things he might do next, and you cheer at the end because even worse things are finally getting done to him in return.

It’s to the director’s credit that he also takes the time to give William a bit of backstory, or at least an original story, to make him more than a mindless killer. He’s still an absolute creep and a jerk in those scenes, but having them there adds to the tension we feel when he starts showing up.

Compound Fracture isn’t the kind of horror movie that screams franchise even though the cast contains actors who have played some iconic cinematic serial killers in the past: Mane (Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s Halloween), Mears (Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th (2009)) and Watson (Ben Willis in I Know What You Did Last Summer). It probably doesn’t deserve a sequel, either, although you can tell the producers were hopeful with its final scene. And that’s OK. Not all scary stories have to be told over and over until they’ve been bled to death. Some, like Compound Fracture. are strong enough to stand alone.


  • John Black, Compound Fracture
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.