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Driven by rage, empathy, and something she can’t yet name, Wally secretly patrols the streets at night, taking physical revenge on abusive hipster men on behalf of the survivors who can’t. When law-abiding Lou enters her world, love and revenge clash threatening to infiltrate their relationship.
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Unlike the myriad similarly toned films that depict violence against women, the point of COMPULSUS is not the details of the attacks, it’s that they’re happening at all.
First, Wally has not suffered any violence herself. She has not been raped like Lisbeth Salander or The Bride. She has not experienced domestic abuse, or family molestation, or even a bad date. This isn’t trauma porn, wherein a woman must suffer in order to be angry, to want revenge. We are angry because we have reason to be. Full stop. A violent man’s motive is rarely questioned, and never justified, onscreen. It’s enough that the world has simply gotten him down—Joker proved this to the tune of a billion dollars.
Second, where many films—especially violence-based action films, but really most films—have an obligatory female character and a smattering of ornamental women, Compulsus deliberately removes men. All seven attack victims are played by the same male actor, whose face we never see, whose name(s) we never hear. Where the average movie erases women by not even considering them, we have removed men on purpose.
COMPULSUS—“striking together (hostile)”—is not lazily “gender-flipped,” which is not what we meant when we said we wanted to see stronger female characters. In its existence, staging, casting, and editing, it’s a complete subversion of the Loner Male stereotype. It lifts and centres women, and punishes and erases men.
Tara is an artist, cultural critic, and recovering journalist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her 20-year journalism career was split between Halifax alt-weekly THE COAST and CBC Radio. Tara’s first essay collection, LOW ROAD FOREVER, will be released by Nimbus Publishing in the fall of 2021.