Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Torment

3/4

Starring: Kathryn Isabelle, Robin Dunne, Peter DaCunha

Rated R for Horror Violence, Terror and Brief Sexuality

"Torment" is what it is.  It's a low-budget chiller about a group of psychos who terrorize an innocent family in the middle of nowhere.  In fact, it's almost a note by note example of the kind of film Michael Haneke argued against in his controversial "Funny Games."

Newlyweds Cory (Dunne) and Sarah (Isabelle) Morgan are taking an excursion to their cabin with Cory's son, Liam (DaCunha).  Sarah does her best to fill the shoes left by Liam's mother, but he regards her with disdain.  When they get there, they find it has been broken into and trashed.  Sarah is worried, but after Cory returns with the business card of the local cop, she's put more at ease.  Later that night, Sarah wakes up and finds that Liam is missing, and a quartet of masked psychopaths have something sinister in mind.

It would be an injustice to the film to compare it to something of theatrical quality (not that that means much).  This is obviously a low-budget effort, and director Jordan Barker does the best that he can.  That's surprisingly a lot; the film is never boring and contains a high level of suspense throughout.  The camerawork is unsophisticated and the acting is at times stiff, but on the whole, the movie works.

All three of the leads have their off moments, but they're all more than adequate to gain our sympathy.  That's key to any movie, especially one that's intended to scare you.  If you don't care about them, how can you be scared for them?  Robin Dunne fares the best as the loving father who is trying to make his new marriage work.  Peter DaCunha is neither too cute nor too precocious; in fact, when he says something truly horrible to Sarah, it hurts like a ton of bricks.  Kathryn Isabelle is the weakest, but that's definitely a relative descriptor.

Jordan Barker knows what he's doing.  He has a firm grasp of atmosphere, and more importantly, pacing.  Things move along at a decent clip, the shocks are well-constructed, and aside from an editing hiccup or two, it runs smoothly.  He's also a good director of actors (probably because he is one himself).

"Torment" is not a classic horror movie.  But for a movie streaming on Netflix, it's worth a watch.

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