Any movie that has been on the shelf as long as The Tortured has automatically comes with low expectations. Originally filmed in 2007, the film had some minor reshoots a while back, but it doesn’t seem to have helped much. I don’t know what scenes are new and which were there all along, but there are tell-tale signs of tinkering throughout, as a recognizable actor is reduced to only a few seconds as a glorified extra, Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe’s acting is all over the place, and the film keeps changing between a dramatic thriller about parents pushed to the edge, to a traditional “torture porn”.
But the real problem with the movie is it’s ending, which was NOT changed from what I understand. To discuss further I will have to spoil it, so stop reading if you want to be “surprised” (read: have your intelligence, fuck, your VISION, insulted) by the ending if and when it ever actually sees a proper release.
So the movie concerns Metcalfe and Christensen planning to kidnap and torture the man that kidnapped, tortured, and killed their son. That man is played by Bill Moseley. Moseley may not be a household name, but he’s certainly a recognizable face and very popular amongst the horror fans that are likely to be the primary audience for any film with FROM THE PRODUCERS OF SAW! on its poster. But apparently, the folks involved with his casting either didn’t realize that, or just assumed we’re all idiots, because as anyone can plainly see from the moment they tie him up in their basement, the man they have captured is not Moseley.
As we learn in a very Saw-like flashback montage at the end of the film, when they went to hijack the prison van that was carrying Moseley, they failed to see that there was another prisoner in the van with him, some schmuck who got busted for tax evasion. And yes, he does share a physical resemblance to Moseley, but not enough for any horror fan paying attention to be fooled into thinking its him. Since the van is overturned and all parties take facial injuries, I guess we’re supposed to think that Metcalfe and Christensen are so worked up about the whole thing that they never really bothered to notice that the guy they took had different eyes and facial features when they picked him up after he was thrown from the van (with Moseley still safely inside). Perhaps on paper this would have worked fine, but on-screen it’s just a complete failure. Even if you’re not thinking “they got the wrong guy” in terms of the story, you WILL be thinking “they got the wrong actor?” anytime there’s a closeup of his face. I think they actually cheat a few times and really put Moseley in there, but the damage is done right from the start, when his face is at its least injured. Some more careful editing might have helped.
But even so it’s a laughable movie at times, thanks to some truly terrible dialogue from the parents. Metcalfe: “Imagine the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life… this will be even worse than that!” Metcalfe isn’t the worst actor in the world, but he’s the least threatening guy ever – even Ashton Kutcher might have been a better choice for this role. And while the torture bits are nasty and well-done (particularly the elephant mask and “ear piercing” scenes), they never really amount to much either – they’re just there to keep the movie from simply being a morality drama of two angry/upset parents debating over whether or not what they are doing is right. And thus the torture scenes don’t really fit – “should we do this?” is often followed by both of them seemingly enjoying what they’re doing.
The kidnapping stuff is actually quite gripping, however. The scene where the kid is taken is well-staged, and both actors are quite good at depicting the otherwise unimaginable pain of losing a child. They blame one another, have flashbacks (the flashbacks to the kid’s birth, moments after they discover he is dead, is truly gut-wrenching – and I’m not even a parent!), turn to drugs, etc. And the scene where they take “Moseley” is a fairly decent suspense piece, with a terrific car crash to boot.
But I guess that’s what happens when you reshoot a movie with a different crew – you get a bunch of good scenes, a bunch of bad ones, and an almost complete lack of cohesion. I mean, the whole thing comes down to them realizing that they’ve been torturing the wrong guy, and yet we never really see them reflect on it – they just sort of go “oh shit” and drive away from the house as the credits start to roll. Like the Saw films, once we know the twist we have about 30 seconds to go, but unlike those films, there’s no sequel forthcoming.
Also, and I may have asked for this before, but can we get a moratorium on using “Mockingbird” as a creepy theme song for the killer? It’s NOT CREEPY. And even if it once was, it sure as hell isn’t anymore, after being used so many goddamn times. I guess we can give this one some benefit of the doubt, since it was shot in the previous decade for christ’s sake, but still. Enough is enough. How about “Shoop Shoop” from Cher? That song could be kind of frightening if it was playing on a scratchy record in some killer’s basement, right?
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