Jordan Barker’s Torment probably wont be as tormenting as you’d like it to be, but its still worth a look if you’re a fan of home invasion narratives. Newly weds Sarah and Cory Morgan (Katharine Isabelle and Robin Dunne) travel to their country home to put the past behind them and start a new family, with them is Cory’s 7 year old son Liam who is still dealing with his mother’s death the year before. When the family arrive, evidence of squatters begins a night of violence and abduction.
Torment borrows a lot of narrative techniques from some of the best horror films of the past decade, (The Strangers, Sinister) but never really forms its own world or characters. A middling set of stakes and too few spooks keep the film from really demanding our attention or imposing some kind of memorable experience. It doesn’t help that Adam Wingard’s You’re Next has essentially given the home invasion sub-genre a kind of spring clean, showing how dynamic, enjoyable, and terrifying a film can be when properly balanced. Comparisons are unfortunately against Torment, which is a shame because there are some great elements here.
Starting with the obvious, Liam’s teddy bears, once decapitated, produce some startlingly eerie old-school masks which never quite lose their creepiness. Which is important because once Mr Mouse starts talking any terror, you might have felt, will be drained away via poor dialogue drawled in a strange Bane impression. Silence, perhaps, would have been golden. Similarly the sound tracking reaches a crescendo far too soon in the film’s prologue, undermining the tension and leaving the viewer a bit bewildered in the face of the opening credits. Thankfully the music finds its footing later on, helping keep the pace up in the more action-based second half of the film, and proving especially great in a gruelling suffocation sequence.
Isabelle looks like she’s having the best time being terrified, but she’s hardly flaunting the degree of skill she paraded in American Mary. Stephen McHattie ( Lance Henriksen: Mark 2, or is Lance Henriksen a Mark 2 McHattie? ) pops up for literally 2 scenes then gets blown up so yeh, no cool old guys to save the day here. Add Dunne’s pretty uneventful inclusion and the casting becomes a bit lacklustre.
Barker clearly has some great ideas on how to shoot basic manoeuvres which could otherwise have looked dull. Playing with the focus whenever one of the assailants enters a room works well as a means of obscuring, as does fading the gruesome family in and out of shots throughout the house. Barker keeps the camera roomy around his subjects to hint that – at any second – another character could appear. The general effect is to transform his human threat into a near-supernatural omnipresence we never quite get a handle on. Of course all this is somewhat ruined by the dopey revelations that come later.
Dodgy dialogue and a meandering sense of panic eventually bog Torment down in its own lack of creativity, however there’s successful suspense and a few nifty set-pieces to maintain your attention for a fun and forgettable night of home defence.
Dir. Jordan Barker
Stars. Katharine Isabelle, Robin Dunne, Peter DaCunha, Stephen McHattie, Noah Danby, Amy Forsyth