26th Aug2011

Frightfest 2011 Review: ‘Vile’

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Eric Jay Beck, April Matson, Akeem Smith, Greg Cipes, Elisha Skorman, Heidi Mueller, Maya Hazen, Rob Kirkland | Written by Eric Jay Beck, Rob Kowsaluk | Directed by Taylor Sheridan


Ah, the torture-porn genre, how I’ve missed you. Not really. But it does seem that every year FrightFest manages to pull a new example of the genre out of the woodwork for the delictation of the baying horror-loving audience in attendance. Last year we had The Tortured, this year its Vile, And interestingly the two are not that dissimilar…

Like many a horror film before it, Vile asks the age-old question: “How far would you go to stay alive?” In this case our eight protagonists, all of whom are kidnapped, have tubes attached to their brains and then locked in an abandoned house, are tasked with seeing how much pain and torture they can take, if it means living so see another day. You see, the nasty unseen folk who’ve created this tortuous conundrum need a certain fluid – only produced by the brain under intense fear and injury – to market as the latest designer drug. And the only way to get it is to torture it out of unwilling victims. But, said unseen villains don’t want to do the torturing themselves, oh no, they want the eight to torture each other. And of course, like the aforementioned The Tortured, Vile pushes its character to see just how far each person will go when faced with the idea of torturing another human being…

Now I know that this horror sub-genre has a LOT of detractors, but if these types of film are done well they can be enjoyable for all the right reasons – come on, who doesn’t like a bucketload of gore with their scares? Vile, at least for the most part, is a pretty good example of this sub-genre. The concept is solid, if based on shaky pseudo-science, and the idea of having eight strangers work together to torture each other is a twisted take on the cliche of strangers thrown together to defeat an evil adversary – in this case the evil is, at least the physical evil, is our “heroes”. The blurring of the line between hero and villain, in the case of most of the characters, makes Vile that little bit more interesting. Of course you have your typical cliched nut job, who just wants to kill and torture everyone else to save themselves, but the rest of the characters really do seem to struggle with the decisions they need to make and the actions they need to take.

Interestingly Vile actually shy’s away from showing too much of the torture – whether this was a conscious decision on a part of the filmmakers, or a lack of budget (which is probably more the case) I don’t know, but either way the lack of gross-out effects, beyond the odd nail ripping and flesh-boiling, actually works in the films favour, especially given the fact the films replaces a lack of visuals with the great use of gruesome sound effects – bone-crunching and screaming worked a lot better for me than seeing someone being drilled into in close-up. I think it’s actually nice to get to use your imagination for once!

For what it is, the main crux of the film works, however comes the film’s finale and Vile goes completely off the rails with a ridiculous couple of  “twists” that veteran horror fans will see coming a mile off and that do nothing for the story beyond making you wish you skipped out on the final 15 minutes – the entire “escape” sequence left a bitter taste in my mouth and, for me, marred the entire film… And the epilogue? Pretty much a cliched joke.

Vile screens tonight as part of the London Film4 Frightfest at 11.55pm


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