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Sunday, June 29, 2014

TORMENT -- DVD review by porfle

Sometimes a movie starts out really good but then begins to suffer from something known as "Goes-On-Too-Long" syndrome. The horror-thriller TORMENT (2013) falls victim to this dreaded malady sometime after the halfway mark--which is a shame because up till then, it really had me going.

Robin Dunne (TEENAGE SPACE VAMPIRES, CRUEL INTENTIONS 2) plays Cory Morgan, a widower whose young son Liam (Peter DaCunha, THE BARRENS) is having a hard time accepting his new mom, Sarah (Katharine Isabelle, CARRIE 2002, AMERICAN MARY, GINGER SNAPS). The newlyweds hope this will change when they all spend some quality family time in Cory's rustic vacation cottage dead in the middle of Sticksville.

What they don't know is that another nearby house was the scene of some horrible murders that we got to see during the opening scene, and since Cory and Sarah just found evidence that someone else has been living in their cottage, the whole set-up starts to give us, the viewer, what various Star Wars characters usually refer to as "a bad feeling about this."

The local sheriff (played by old pro Stephen McHattie) advises them to "turn on a few lights", to which they respond by keeping one of the darkest houses I've ever seen in a film. I kept wanting to advise Cory to heed Sarah's instincts to get back in their SUV and get the hell out of Home Invasion-ville, but I've yet to find a way of getting movie characters to listen to me.

There are some great creepy touches--earlier, Sarah hears Liam playing with his talking toy robots in his room, and then that night after Liam's disappearance she hears the same toys talking in his room again. Later, after safely barricading herself in the bedroom against unknown assailants, she'll hear another sound outside the door which, again, might be the missing boy. Of course, she has to investigate, and...

Director Jordan Barker, whose earlier THE MARSH was another partially but not entirely successful horror flick that took place in a rural setting, takes his time establishing all of this, slowly building a sense of impending dread that works mainly because he doesn't tip his hand too early.

That is, at least not until things hit the fan about halfway through when the Morgans' frantic search for the missing Liam just goes from bad to worse. For ten minutes or so, TORMENT is painfully tense and frightening, and almost unbearably suspenseful. It's as though some of the scariest elements from films such as HALLOWEEN, THE STRANGERS, and even THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN were combined with the potential of terrifying us.

We get some very effectively scary glimpses of the bad guys (I'm not going to describe them any more than that except to say there's a new twist on the "mask" thing that's just way creepier than regular Halloween masks) although their identities remain a mystery to us. Unfortunately, as soon as the main bad guy opens his mouth and starts talking to a bound Cory, hinting at his rather uninteresting and even mundane motives, the film loses its buoyancy and starts settling back to earth.

After that, everything just starts following the old "elude the omnipresent stalker(s)" formula that we've seen a thousand times before until one of those big none-too-convincing showdowns. Even when the story tries to end with a big twist, it just comes off kind of flat. It's a shame too, since the initial set-up was so promising.

The cast is fine--even the youngest member, Peter DaCunha as Liam, gives an assured performance. Best of the bunch is familiar genre actress Katharine Isabelle, who just keeps getting better with time. (I remember her best as the vile Tina from the 2002 CARRIE remake while GINGER SNAPS and AMERICAN MARY fans will know her from those films.) She's convincing here as a caring young stepmom who has to "step" up to defend her kid against a terrifying menace.

The DVD from Vertical Entertainment is in 16 x 9 (2.40:1) widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. I reviewed a screener and can't comment on extras, if any.

TORMENT is worth checking out for the first half alone--it would've made a great short film if it had ended during its peak. Unfortunately, it sticks around too long like a houseguest who refuses to go home even after we've started to nod off.

Buy it at

Now available on VOD
DVD street date: July 15


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