There’s nothing more unsettling than the idea of someone being in your home, watching you. This uncanny sensation is just one of many things that psychological thriller from director Benjamin Ironside Koppin, Made Me Do It, captures so well. While it has some of the hallmarks of a modern slasher, there is a depth to its portrayal of the troubled killer that really makes it stand out from its contemporaries.
Made Me Do It follows Ali (Anna B. Shaffer) as she reluctantly returns home from college. She’s staying at her dad’s house with her younger brother Nick (Jason Gregory London), who was recently involved in an accident in which he injured his leg saving someone’s life. Nick is your typical teenager who enjoys skateboarding and eating pizza, and, like anyone his age, he relishes his hero status. The dynamic between the two siblings provides the few lighter moments Made Me Do It has to offer. However, the very first character we meet is the killer: Thomas Berkson (Kyle Van Vonderen). His extraordinary introduction ensures you’re interested from the moment the film begins.
The film’s crude and intimate approach to following the killer does a great job of making the viewer feel uneasy, and it only gets increasingly intense as you learn more about his background. Made Me Do It uses a lot of hard, disjointed cuts when showing the killer –the shaky camera style, seemingly filmed on a handheld camcorder, makes it easy to distinguish flashback from the rest of the film, while also adding to the viewer’s discomfort due to its raw nature.
As the story progresses, more of Thomas’ past is shown, offering an insight into the events that steered him down this murderous path. Thomas has a severe mental health disability and has suffered from bullying and abuse for most of his life because of it. His aunt (Elain Rinehart) was the worst tormenter of them all, starving and psychologically torturing him. However, when Thomas puts on his mask, he transforms into a terrifying killer.
Despite the fact that Thomas is the killer, it’s difficult not to see him as the real victim in all of this. Of course, what’s happening to Ali and Nick is very extreme, but this film is really a tragic tale of somebody who needs help and isn’t getting it. The moments where Thomas is abused are very uncomfortable viewing, but it does highlight societal issues and the mistreatment of those who are most in need, even if it is close to the line. Kyle Van Vonderen plays Thomas incredibly well, and his grounded, sympathetic performance is perhaps the strongest part of the film.
Made Me Do It doesn’t shy from showing a bit of blood but avoids excess, toeing a fine line that helps build a sense of fear for the viewer. The scenes in which we see Thomas being abused are not the only uncomfortable moments – all of the onscreen violence here is carefully calculated for maximum squeamishness.
Unfortunately, there’s a less successful supernatural element to Thomas wearing the mask, which, despite allowing for some creative moments, does undermine certain aspects of his character. It never quite feels right – though only a very minor plot point, it ultimately feels unnecessary.
From the moment Made Me Do It begins, it keeps you invested. Incredible editing and a standout performance from Kyle Van Vonderen are enough to justify your time. The film also does a good job of highlighting a major issue with modern society, although the supernatural elements undermine this somewhat. Luckily, this isn’t enough to prevent Made Me Do It from being a worthwhile watch.