Purposefully icky drama based almost note for note on a real event that happened in 2004, where a prank caller posing as a police officer phoned a Kentucky McDonald's (here re-imagined as a fictitious "ChickWich" restaurant in Ohio) and manipulated its female manager into accusing a pretty young underling of theft, imprisoning her in a back office, and strip-searching her.

What transpired that night is a sickening example of blind trust in authority and the easy abuse of power. If you know the story, I won't go into more detail here. But in Compliance, writer/director Zobel dramatizes the entire evening, making his audience ask themselves how something as horrible – and as unbelievable – as this could have actually happened.

The humiliations in Compliance eventually become so over-the-top that I had to keep reminding myself, "This really went down, this is not made up at all." It's like a real-world analogue of the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments.

Ann Dowd is frighteningly authentic as the middle-aged middle manager who, while unnerved by this mysterious "policeman", is all too eager to exert her power over her insubordinate employee (Dreama Walker). In fact, there's a sense that she's implicitly taking revenge upon the girl for simply being young, attractive, and rebellious. Walker is obviously brave to take on such a revealing role (although the nudity is handled discreetly), but the actress has an inherently confident, world-weary countenance; it's thus difficult to believe that her character would naively agree to any of the appalling things asked of her. For his part, Pat Healy's sinister crank caller is all too human, safe in his home hundreds of miles away and often delightedly surprised by the gullibility of his unseen dupes.

Compliance isn't a pleasant film to sit through, yet it's neither exploitive nor overwhelmingly depressing. Well-shot, well-paced, and certainly well-acted, it's worthwhile viewing.