One of the most controversial films coming out this year isn't another Human Centipede film.
No, it's Compliance, a film about a McDonald's phone hoax gone terribly, horribly wrong.
Doesn't sound so scary, but once you know the story, you'll be horrified to learn that it's based on true events.
In 2004, a man named "Officer Scott" called a McDonald's in Mount Washington, Kentucky, claiming that a customer had accused an employee of stealing a purse. According to McDonald's manager Donna Summers (real name) who had answered the call, the description of the suspect matched Louise Ogborn, an 18-year-old worker.
The officer gave the manager an ultimatum: She could either send the girl to jail to be strip-searched or perform the strip-search there over the phone with the officer.
What this devolved into is unbelievable, but suffice it to say, the young woman was sexually assaulted and humiliated, all because the manager blindly believed whom she was talking to was an authority figure and that she was just following orders.
For the story with the original, true cast of characters, watch this ABC News segment from 2006:
Compliance, the film, is causing audiences in theaters to walk out based on the real-life, outlandish premise, that a manager would never question authority, that the young woman would never question her immediate authority. It stars Dreama Walker ("Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23") as the teenager and Ann Dowd as the manager, and some are predicting that Ms. Dowd will be getting some Oscar attention.
One of the biggest beefs people have with the film is that the people, mind you---real people---, are stupid characters that are just plain dumb. Ryan Adams of Awards Daily says blatantly: "There are unsophisticated people throughout rural America who can easily be swayed by bold lies."
Ouch. Let's not stereotype rural America.
There are unsophisticated people throughout the planet that can be swayed by bold lies, and I think the situation reflected in the film is just a breakdown in human civility and sadly blind allegience to blind authority.
Anyone who's worked a job in fast food, or anywhere that's high-stress/low pay, will tell you that often there's no time to question things when you have customers breathing down your neck, in addition to district managers. And often, the authorities are phantoms you do not see and only hear from. Not to say that none of us would think twice before allowing an 18-year-old girl to do jumping jacks naked, but you really don't know what you would do in a particular situation, given the right amount of stress applied.
People like to point the finger at who the villain is in this story. Many say manager, who allowed all of the abuse to take place. Others say manager's fiance, who found no fault in the officer forcing the girl to perform a sexual act on himself. And then there's the hoaxster, who got away with this in 68 other stores before Mount Washington. He also eventually got away without being charged.
I think the real villain isn't just one person. The villain, and perhaps what makes this film terrifying, is the hiccup in human decency and the lack of explanation for it.