What I'm Watching: Tormented
Okay, bear with me here, I am going to divert just a bit. The other day, I reviewed Torment. Today, I am reviewing Tormented. And that would be 'The Reasons' I alluded to in the Torment review of why I finally decided to review it. They sure sound related, yes?
Let's get things started and take a look at the DVD covers for both movies, side by side. Because they're clearly related!
Wow, look at that. Same colour scheme, the logos are practically the same, BOTH movies featuring creepy, creepy people in stuffed animal head masks. Even the tag line at the bottom is in red on both. Both discs are released by Vertical Entertainment. So, clearly these two movies are related! Tormented MUST be a sequel to the slightly above average home invasion story, yes? The continued adventures of Father and his family, right??
So, so very wrong. You could not be more wrong if your name was Wrong Wrongity McWrongson who lived on Wrongly Ave in Wrongville, Wrongsconsin, in North Wrongkota of the United States of Wrongmerica and worked as a Wrongcountant for Wrongenstern, Wrongenstern and Klein.
That is some straight outta the 80s VHS BS, back when they would rename movies left and right for rerelease because they thought they could make more money by hitching their wagon to another franchise. It's the Frightmare fiasco all over again!
BUT, I won't hold some dodgy advertising against this movie. Heck, I didn't do it to the Poltergeist of Borley Forest, and the title doesn't matter if the movie is decent.
Anyways, let's talk about Berkshire County (That's the real name of this movie, and where it takes place). Instead of a family running afoul of Murder Hillbillies, this time out we've got a teenaged girl who makes some REALLY bad decisions with a boy at a Halloween party, and then goes to babysit some kids in a HUGE house...where she runs afoul of Murder Hillbillies.
The movie spends quite a bit of time establishing Kylie Winters as this gullible, naive young woman, who gets caught on camera giving a blowjob to a guy who isn't going to be her boyfriend. It ends up online, and the entire community sees it. The entire community then proceeds to shit all over Kylie, from fellow students, to the guy's actual girlfriend, to adults to HER OWN MOTHER. It reaches the point where I was ready to jump into the movie and just give this poor girl a great big hug and tell her it would be okay.
After this whole thing about making her feel terrible for the voyeuristic nature of society right now with all their camera phones, we immediately are thrown into watching Kylie strip down and take a shower. That...that makes me wicked uncomfortable. It makes me complicit in her humiliation, in a way. I wonder if the director was going for that queasiness, or if it just kinda happened because they wanted some implied nudity in their horror movie. If it's the first, cool. If it's the latter, not cool, because you're sending mixed messages.
"This is a lifelong problem for you, Kylie! You need to learn to stand up for yourself!"
Tormented does take a pretty long time getting to the horror, but we do spend quite a bit of time getting to know Kylie, and her character is pretty clear. And starting off on this gullible, shy, beaten down girl really sets things up for her arc. And then we have to head to the house she's babysitting at, and it's HUGE. There is some really fun geography here, with lots of rooms, lots of nooks and crannies and things to get hurt on. If anything, they don't use the house enough!
It's quite honestly a better house than most home invasion movies, and makes for a very nice locale that entirely belongs to this movie.
But introing Kylie, THEN going to the house, and showing it off, and meeting the kids, does make things just start to drag a bit, and it's nearly 30 minutes before Murder Family comes a-knockin'.
I appreciate that there is never a moment when Kylie thinks this is a Halloween prank. Not a single moment. So many movies would've had that, "Ha ha ha, very funny guys!" but nope, not here. Of course, since Kylie's been established as pretty gullible, she would've been fooled even if it WAS a prank.
"You could get lost in this place!"
Giving her a cop on the phone to talk to handily escapes the trap that the unrelated Torment fell into, with too few characters on screen. There's almost always discussion going on, keeping the pace going, and some information always flowing. It helps the pace immensely.
I *really* like the moment about midway through the movie, when Kylie, the wishy washy coward, is ready to leave. Just...GO. She's in her car, she's ready to run, and save herself, but she steps up, and heads back to the house. It's a great character turn, and starts her redemption.
This movie is also *really* well directed, in my opinion. They use the house's geography brilliantly, and there are just some simply great moments where they use it superbly, with the cat and mouse game Kylie and the Murder Family play. They just miss each other thanks to all the twists and turns, the halls and doors. So close, yet so far, and it is some REALLY great tension being built as Kylie just barely escapes being noticed.
They continue to do that when she heads to the delivery van the family uses for their raids and kidnappings. Kylie peeks around corners, uses the mirrors, and glances through holes in slats to keep an eye out. Really great usage of what's on set. I absolutely LOVE this kinda stuff, and it's really good at keeping the tension going during the middle of the movie. You need to keep that ball rolling, and keep Kylie on her toes, or else the movie starts to fail and the audience runs the risk of checking out.
Oh, and while I'm on the subject of the Murder Van, Kylie finds the kids she's protecting, as well as a mother and her kid. They really serve no purpose other than body count. They're unconscious, we never saw them before Kylie finds them, they have no lines beyond shouting names out...and I wanna tell you, I *really* wish they had been named Sarah and Liam.
"I thought you said there weren't any monsters until high school?"
Kylie spends most of the movie playing a running game, trying to stay ahead of the Murder Family, and she fortunately stays away from those classic horror tropes that make you want to yell, "Come ON!!" at her. She almost never does anything that's outright stupid, unrealistic, or mistakes.
Any mistake she does make, is understandable because she's a kid, she's gullible, and she's on the run and a bit of a coward. Or at least wanting to be non-confrontational. It doesn't make them any less dumb, but *entirely* believable for the young girl. And it makes those moments towards the end of the movie (And a few in between) when she REALLY steps up, does some clever things, and kicks some ass, THAT MUCH BETTER.
THAT is how you make a character make decisions that might be considered bad, and make it work. It absolutely suits the character that she screws up. She's been screwing up all movie. And it doesn't come across as dumb, but just an "Oh shit!" and oops! Which really, if ANYONE reading these words, you'd make a few mistakes in the heat of the moment.
Oh, and remember the Not!Boyfriend? Yeah, he does the usual schtick of showing up in the final act, as the usual "She's gonna be saved!" moment, and the movie just keeps yanking that rug out from underneath you.
First, they do a GREAT swerve where the guy continues being an asshole and plays on Kylie's gullibility by saying he's there to help the Murder Family, but he's just being a dick. Then, when the Murder Family shows up and he believes Kylie, he reveals his true colours, and he's probably a bigger coward than she is. It is such a great stomping on the trope of the guy coming in to save the day. This is KYLIE'S story, not his, and he's not gonna be the cop at the end of the movie who shoots the bad guys while the girl does nothing but cry.
(Sorry, I still may have issues with the Prom Night remake...)
This is also the best way to give us asshole characters. Give us some good ones, you can populate the movie with a few dicks that you WANT to die. This movie actually gets its character building right.
I absolutely love him NOT rushing in and transforming from the asshole into the Instahero that saves the day.
Once he's out of the picture, the movie moves into its final act, as Kylie crashes his car, and she gets tied up in the Murderlivery Van. This leads into a MINDNUMBINGLY obviousplot twist anyone should see coming, but the movie plays it SO well, and the actors chew it up, that it's so damned fun and twisted, that I'm gonna allow it. It's less about being a real twist, and more about how it messed with Kylie's perceptions.
"But I want you to keep fighting anyway, Kylie. Because it's just so much more FUN."
Once Kylie wakes up in the back of that van, she is almost an entirely different person. She's been through hell, even BEFORE the horror started, and she's kinda snapped. She's lost it, she's had enough, she's clever, and she's super violent. I love the switch, and Alysa King does a great job of selling it.
Kylie is just BRUTAL in the finale, stabbing her way through the Murder Family, and it's understandable, it's energetic, and it's violent as all hell. The movie builds to it, and the release is welcome to Kylie and the viewers.
So, naturally, the movie has to go and screw things up by taking a crap on that and going for the GASP SURPRISE ENDING when Kylie wakes up in the hospital, and it eventually ends with the ENTIRE HOSPITAL being brutally murdered by the Pig Family.
I would have been just fine if the movie ended after she woke up, and they have a scene where the Little Piggy gets picked up by Murder Daddy, leaving it open ended enough and "The horror lives on!", with Kylie being alive, and she saved the kids, so there's hope. But going that extra step to the incredibly unrealistic body count of everyone everywhere stabbed and slashed just is a few steps too far.
This movie is not without it's problems. It takes awhile to get going, Kylie has some silly moments (Like trying to close translucent curtains over all the gigantic breakable windows to keep the Murder Family out), and their big twist is telegraphed miles away.
However, the movie is SO much fun, Kylie's really likable, and they DO actually twist some tropes around, and make a solid character arc, that I quite enjoyed this movie. It's STILL no Mischief Night or You're Next, but it's better than Torment.
If I gave Torment a 6 out of 10, I'd easily edge this one to a seven. It would even get an eight, if not for that BS ending, and some of the other flaws. I started out being frustrated at the very deceptive marketing, but this movie was fun, blew that other unrelated movie out of the water, and was well worth my time.
Overall, this was a thrilling ride, with some well designed sequences, that kept the tension really tight with some spot on directing and use of space, and good use of characters. Definitely worth checking out!