04th Mar2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘Torment’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Robin Dunne, Katharine Isabelle, Stephen McHattie, Peter DaCunha, Amy Forsyth | Written by Michael Foster, Thomas Pound | Directed by Jordan Barker

torment

There’s always one film at any Frightfest that feels as formulaic and cliched as your typical Hollywood horror. In the case of this years Glasgow Frightfest it was Torment. A home invasion horror that sees newlyweds Cory and Sarah Morgan head to the country for some much-needed family time where they hope Liam, Cory’s struggling 7-year-old son from his previous marriage, will learn to accept his stepmother. But arriving at their home they discover someone has been living there while they were away.  After speaking with the Sheriff they assume the intruders have moved on, however when Liam disappears they discover just how wrong they were. For they must confront a deranged family of killers who have been hiding in the house all along and are now holding Liam in their sadistic cult-like grip.

Frightfest has been home to a number of “home invasion” films over the years and they all, typically, tend to sound the same on paper. However there’s usually a redeeming factor at work that lifts each film up above its more mainstream competition. In the case of last years You’re Next it was the black sense of humour that ran throughout the film; so I was expecting something good from Torment. Sadly it was not meant to be.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Torment. Both Robin Dunne (The Skulls II) and Katharine Isabelle (American Mary) give great performances – although we’ve seen a LOT better from Isabelle; and the villains, whilst derivative in both look and mannerisms of the likes of You’re Next and The Strangers, are surprisingly eerie. (The less said about the irritating, “oh why don’t they just kill him” little kid, the better). It’s just the film is so… generic.

Which for the most part wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact it’s clear that the folks behind the film are trying to say a lot more than they do – it’s just that audiences are unlikely to get any message about family and loyalty from a film that doesn’t even take the time to explain anyone’s motivations! And to be honest, opening with a Nietzsche quote, doesn’t help things, nothing in the script ever matches up to that and only makes the screenplay look even more vapid.

Personally I have a soft-spot for all things Canadian horror, so it’s a shame to see a mis-step such as Torment. The film – whilst on the surface is a moderately effective home invasion, “them versus us”, horror – lacks a cohesive story on which to hang it’s tale and you’re left wondering about the villains true motivation, which is odd as filmmakers typically over-egg their villains to the point of parody. Yet here director Jordan Barker keeps his killer family shrouded in mystery, perhaps too much mystery. Beyond knowing they have a “fetish” for taking kids from families who they deem unworthy – be it abusive or uncaring about their children – the audience is left knowing nothing about the killer family’s back story. Which, frankly, left me a little frustrated. A gapping plot hole too far I’m afraid.

If you liked You’re Next, The Strangers and other of this ilk, you might get a kick out of Torment. But for those looking for the next À l’intérieur? You’re going to be disappointed.

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