May 28, 2009

Tormented [15]

Dir: Jon Wright
Britain has a strong history in the horror genre. Studios like Hammer and Amicus, working filmmakers like Neil Marshall and films from The Wicker Man to Mum And Dad have given us a strong identity in the genre, however we’ve never really made many slashers. This is why.

Tormented is, apparently, a slasher for the Skins generation. Having never seen Skins I don’t really know what that means, and perhaps that’s part of the root of my (many) problems with this movie. The film is set in what appears to be a rather privileged private school, a student called Darren Mullet, who was bullied by many because of his size, has killed himself, but soon those who tormented him begin to receive texts that appear to be from Mullet, and then they begin to be killed. So far, then, so standard, and it has to be said that there is the potential here for fun to be had, but that potential evaporates almost immediately.

Tormented is clearly intended to be a comic horror film, but the only thing you’ll be laughing at is the acting which, to be fair, is genuinely hilarious. Olly Alexander is the first and probably the worst offender, barely 30 seconds into the movie he’s shouting at all the other characters in a tone so determinedly expressionless that you’d swear those were the first words he’s ever spoken. I could hardly stifle my laughter, to be fair to Alexander though its not like he’s the only cast member who would need intensive acting lessons to pass muster in even a bad school play.

Alex Pettyfer is a handsome young man, there’s no getting away from it. There’s also no getting away from the fact that he’s only in movies because he’s a handsome young man, because he can’t even convincingly play a handsome young man. As the leading bully Pettyfer seems to be having fun, to the degree that it totally undermines his performance, which is always winking to assure us that he’s not really like this, but is having fun saying lots of naughty words. Watching Tormented is often like sitting through the inexpressive Olympics, in which young actors compete to see who can show the least emotion, and seem the least like an actual person, Pettyfer probably wins, but he’s given a real run for his money by Dimitri Leonidas, April Pearson and terrible newcomer Tuppence Middleton, among others.

Terrible as they are though you can’t entirely blame the actors, first because the witless and boring screenplay is so embarrassingly poor and secondly because no cast can be so collectively awful unless they are being poorly directed. Jon Wright is making his feature debut, and it shows. Tormented is extraordinarily poorly filmed, looking more like cheap and amateurish television than it does a relatively decently budgeted movie. It’s executed with all the imagination and verve of your average sitcom. Worst of all the kills are all poorly done, it’s fine if you want to keep the actual kills off screen, but the shooting here is so inexpert that when we do see the results they seem almost inexplicable (look, for example, at the character impaled on a fence and tell me how that sequence of shots adds up).

Add to this already depressing menu a series of kills that, as well as being poorly shot, are technically poorly realised (the cut off hands gag could be done as well with some papier mache in any kitchen), unimaginative and often, as with a ludicrous moment with some headphones, utterly nonsensical and you’ve got the recipe for a total disaster.

What’s really frustrating about Tormented is that there’s no need for it to be this bad, the concept is solid, and ever relevant, but the execution is so unstintingly dreadful from the way the film’s killer is realised (he’s lacking in mystery, and utterly unscary) to the horrifying screenplay and the broken pacing that the idea is utterly wasted. If this is what mainstream British horror has to offer us then I’m, frankly, depressed.

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