Courtesy IFC Films

Lauren Hadaway’s The Novice is a powerful look at compulsion. The film focuses on Alex Dall (Isabelle Fuhrman of Orphan fame, a movie that would make a great double feature here), a college freshman with an obsessive desire to be the best. Specifically, she’s joined the rowing team with the intention of making varsity and earning a full scholarship. She’s nowhere near the top athlete, though. That role belongs to fellow freshman Jamie Brill (Amy Forsyth), who is more natural than novice. What follows is Whiplash-like, but with less hope and more horror courtesy of the dark and dizzying training shots that take viewers as deep into Alex’s psyche as she allows herself to venture. That’s the thing: Alex is unable to see herself—the closest she gets comes courtesy of her girlfriend Dani (Dilone)—even when there’s a mirror hanging in the practice room that reads “Remember your competition” in all caps. R, 94 min.

In theaters and on demand December 17.