“The Devil, he been with you a long time….”
Recompense is a short film about a man that’s locked up one day and finds he’s sharing a cell with a mysterious man who offers a way out of this predicament.
James is a down-on-his-luck lower-class fella, quick to hit and ask questions later, and probably hits the bottle a little too hard and often. He’s not the type of guy you would welcome into your home to use your phone if he came knocking. He fits the stereotypes of the type of guy you see hanging around a gas station somewhere in the Deep South, more likely to curse and spit chaw than to offer a hand with your flat tire.
Guillaume is a Haitian man who happens to be residing in the cell James is tossed into. After settling James down and making him realize he won’t be getting out before the weekend, Guillaume offers James a deal: He can get James out of jail by the next morning so long as he accepts the terms of a pact.
The moment James agrees to the pact, Guillaume practices a voodoo ritual that ensures James’ soul will belong to the Haitian the moment of his death. Needless to say, that moment comes a lot sooner than James figured. In fact, the word “zombie” is muttered a few times and we learn pretty early on that things aren’t going to go as expected for naive James.
Written and directed by Dayna Noffke, Recompense is a perfect study in low budget filmmaking done right. When a solid storyline, good acting and an excellent aesthetic come together, you’ve got a real winner on your hands. Recompense is just about ready to hit the film festival circuit, so I emphasis the term “winner” here.
Sean Polite plays Guillaume with a charismatic presence, albeit with a prominent dark underbelly. Daniel Collins plays dirt bag James perfectly, but he also portrays just enough of a human side to the character that you almost feel bad for the guy when his time finally does come.
Noffke credits living in Athens, Georgia—a hotbed for independent artists—for the wonderful luck she’s had in landing fantastic actors for her films. Polite happens to be a staple in the Athens theater community and James won over Noffke with his ability to move in a way “that managed to convey both a veneer of toughness and a desperation.”
Filmed at the historic Oglethorpe County Jail in Lexington, Georgia, Recompense owes a lot of its personality to the jail cell in which it’s almost completely filmed. The setting did wonders for Dayna’s imagination and the theme for the film was put together rather quickly, with “karma and the intersection between fate and choice” being the main concept, according to Noffke.
Of course, as with every independent project, there were challenges with this film. While the jail scene and closing scene were shot in one 16-hour day, Mother Nature decided to mix things up a bit just in time for the voodoo scenes. Between braving chilly temperatures and having to bring in a replacement director of photography for the day while their regular DP battled a nasty flu, there were enough reasons to suffer low morale on set, but Dayna is eternally grateful to the men and women of her cast and crew who kept things positive. “I owe it all to my cast and crew to write a film that takes place in the tropics!” Dayna gushed. Not sure if this article is a binding contract in that regard, but fingers crossed the next production is a tad warmer for all of the awesome ladies and gentlemen who made Recompense happen.
For as low a budget as Noffke works with, it’s almost unbelievable how excellent the production values are in her films. From excellent editing by Katie Corman-Lehach, to a fantastic score by Mad Whiskey Grin, Recompense should enjoy a lot of success in the coming months—and it won’t even have to sell its soul to get it.
Mrs. Noffke has done her homework on voodoo worship and deep Southern mythology. One of my favorite lines in the film is when Guillaume tells James, “You are a free man; your train is coming to get you!” Between the dialogue, the bonfire dances, and the fantastic acting of Sean Polite, Recompense hits for the cycle as a genuine voodoo horror flick.