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TORMENT (2013): Review…A Noteworthy Performance By Katharine Isabelle

Torment 2013

“When one has not had a good father, one must create one” is the sinister-sounding opener to director Jordan Barker’s recently released Torment. Not every horror film starts with a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, so I liked that this one did. It gave me the impression that I was maybe about to watch a horror film of the heavy and intellectual variety.

Ultimately, the film, written by Michael Foster and Thomas Pound, never quite lives up to the potential imagined in that quote, nonetheless, clocking in at an hour and 20 minutes, manages to provide both some definite moments of terror, as well as some reflection on the depth and intensity of familial ties.

The film follows newlyweds Cory and Sarah Morgan, and Cory’s 7-year-old son Liam, not on board at all with his father’s remarriage, on a trip to the family vacation home out in the country. The point of the trip seems to be for some much needed family bonding, but a break-in prior to their arrival and a brush off from the local cop about security concerns quickly set the stage for things to go wrong, and it isn’t long before Liam has disappeared and Cory and Sarah are being attacked by shadowy figures wearing creepy animal masks.

Torment 2013

The film’s title, of course, is Torment and the film does a good job of living up to that name. Shots of knives being carefully chosen, car battery torture and one particularly cringe-inducing scene involving a plastic bag all effectively reinforce the idea, not just of killing, but of suffering. The acting was decent all around, but noteworthy is actress Katharine Isabelle’s performance as Sarah. Her on-screen fear was truly palpable and there are moments of watching her evade her tormentor that can keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

At its heart though, beyond all the screams and chasing, the film is one about family and relationships, and that’s the one aspect where its writing is truly the strongest. In fact, it was only when Liam reappeared during the second half of the film that I found myself curious about the family’s ultimate fate at all. Particularly touching are some of the later scenes between Sarah and Liam, a complete reversal from the ones between them in the beginning, and the writers do a good job of making the 180 make sense. This reviewer will even confess to getting slightly teary-eyed at their interaction in a reunion scene, something that doesn’t happen with most films.

All in all, for any moviegoer interested in some thrills, Torment does deliver, especially if home invasion plots are what most frighten you. The directing is solid and Barker does a great job of setting up the tone of the movie.

Torment 2013

With that said, there are too many scenes where you might feel like you are watching a cliched horror movie that you’ve already seen, and the film jumps into them rather quickly before giving audiences the chance to connect with the characters enough to care about watching the chase.

It also would have been nice if the film had shown a little more about the tormentors. Their back story, or even their identities, is never really explained. And, reminiscent of the Nietzsche quote, while one of them is a father figure, where he came from is anyone’s guess. We see that he is trying to create a family and the whys and hows of that may have been more interesting to watch than the film we actually get.

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Meghan Hogan

I'm just a freelance writer who, amongst other things, loves a good scary movie.