The title and art for Jordan Barker’s Torment suggests some typical torture porn. To my relief, it’s much more in the psychological horror realm, with only a couple bits of actual physical torment peppered here and there. The plot is a familiar one, but thanks to some sharp composition, rapid presentation, and decent performances, Torment makes for an enjoyable little thriller.
After a moody prologue sets the stage for some good ol’ fashioned home invasion thrills, Torment introduces us to our protagonists: newlyweds Sarah and Corey. They’re heading to Corey’s old home in the sticks with his seven-year-old son Liam for some family bonding. Shortly after arriving, it’s clear Liam still isn’t comfortable calling Sarah “mom” and adjusting to her new family isn’t going to be the cakewalk she had hoped for. Like when she tries sitting in his mom’s old favorite chair and Liam flips out. There’s some resentment here, but the widow Corey is nothing but patient.
These intimate moments of family drama work really well to introduce the characters and establish some sympathy for them when the shit hits the fan. The great performances add weight to all of this. Katherine Isabelle (American Mary) is believable as the disgruntled stepmom who’s desperate to show Liam she cares for him and Robin Dunne (TV’s Sanctuary) provides a fine mix of paternal shielding and frustration over his petulant son.
Alright, on to the juicy stuff…
Once the initial domestic drama is over, Torment wastes no time kicking into high gear. The home invasion angle is fairly predictable as it goes through the motions of dark hiding spots, running down hallways, locking doors, making it outside, going back inside, etc. There are some unpredictable elements (particularly concerning the invaders’ motivations), but there’s still nothing in the plot that really hooked me. The theme of abuse and the mental scars they leave behind is hinted at, but never really explored.
But while the plot may lack any stimulating elements, Torment makes up for it with its slick presentation and brooding atmosphere. The old house is set off the road in a rural area and the location is milked very well. Barker has a very keen eye for geography.
My only beef with the look of Torment is that it was too dark in some places – to the point where it was a bit tough to figure out where someone was. I should note that this totally could’ve been due to the lesser-than quality of the screener I was given. If that’s the case, never mind.
Aside from the sometimes overbearing darkness, Torment just looks really damn good. The pace is relentless, the atmosphere is eerie, and thankfully Barker relies more on actual suspense than gore to set the tone. It’s simply a fine indie horror flick. And while I typically roll my eyes over obvious sequel set-ups, I’d be interested to see if Torment becomes a franchise.
Torment is available VOD now and will be hitting DVD July 15th!