Compression Poster

Compression (2024) Review

Compression is the latest film from Jakob Bilinski (Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh, Volumes of Blood) who directed, edited, shot and co-wrote the film with Peter Matsoukas (My Way is the Highway, No Place). It’s certainly grabbed some attention, debuting a couple of weeks ago at the HorrorHound Weekend, where it picked up eleven nominations and won in seven of those categories, Judges Choice, Best Feature Film, Best Directing, Best Lead Performance, Best Supporting Performance, Best Writing, and Best Editing.

Now, as regular readers will know, I’m a bit cynical when it comes to awards from festivals and conventions. But HorrorHound is a well known event with a track record, not some unknown festival that’s there to collect entry fees and sell trophies. All of which is a long-winded way of saying I was more than a little interested when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing Compression.

Compression 1

Hazel Hendrix (Emily Durchholz, Morbid Colors, Both Ways: The Movie) is a successful true crime podcaster. Her agent, Jay (Leland Morrow, Gayliens) wants her to do some live appearance to help promote the show and take it to the next level. There’s just one problem, she suffers from severe agoraphobia, presumably the result of the attack we see her escaping as the film opens.

Given her condition and the way the first half hour plays out, a series of phone calls and video chats with Jay, her therapist and her sister, etc., you might be thinking that Compression is another screenlife movie, it isn’t. Instead, she unwisely dumps an entire bag of magic mushrooms on her pizza with a cheerful, “Here’s to opening doors.” She has no idea what she’s just gotten herself into.

Despite it playing and doing so well at HorrorHound Weekend, I’m almost hesitant to call Compression a straight-up horror film. It does verge on psychological horror as Hazel’s past, and the demons contained in it, resurface under the influence of the shrooms, and some of her scenes with Darcy (Devin McBride, Beyond the Leaves, Heads Up! Ketchup) recall Altered States. But for most of its running time, it’s much more of a fusion of dark drama and magical realism than outright horror.

Compression 3

There have been plenty of films about trips gone bad, Gaspar Noé’s Climax is a recent example, but several things set Compression well above most of them. Most importantly, the script is solid, it isn’t meant to be a simple drugsploitation film and the script favours a realistic portrayal of a trip over cheap scares and outrageous hallucinations as Hazel goes further into her own mind and finds she has to face what’s there if she wants to keep her sanity, let alone ever leave her house again.

That script is anchored by an exceptional performance by Emily Durchholz as she takes Hazel through an emotionally brutal and frequently terrifying night as she heads towards a final revelation that that is both shocking and surprising. She’s given excellent support by Kevin Roach (13 Slays Till Xmas, The Bad Man) in a dual role as her ex Elijah and the subject of a painting come to life as well as Kara Gray (Real Cool Time, The Gospel Writers’ Autographs) as a fan she’s been growing close to.

Compression 2

It’s a journey that Bilinski as cinematographer and colourist makes as fascinating visually as it is plot wise. His use of lighting frequently brings Suspiria and Creepshow to mind and combined with the score by Cj Johnson (Children of the Cloth, Fall of Camp Blood) it makes a great canvas for the story to play out against.

Compression is an above average film that should find a receptive audience among those looking for something that’s strange and unsettling while remaining, as the best horror is, rooted in the real world and the horrors we inflict on ourselves and each other. It’s a thoughtful and strangely hopeful, journey to the dark side of the mind, and one that deserves to be seen.

Compression will be playing the festival circuit, you can check for announcements of where it’s screening on the Cinephreak website and Facebook page.

Our Score

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top