Tormented

Movie Review by Samuel Taradash

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, April Pearson, Dimitri Leonidas, Calvin Dean

Director: Jon Wright

TORMENTED, a teen-horror film set in a moneyed suburb in modern England, is a grab-bag of recent horror-movie cliches that tries, unsuccessfully, to mix a couple of messages about modern teenage life. Overweight, unpopular Mullet (Calvin Dean) is teased, taunted, and, yes, tormented by the popular clique. More cruelly, his unrequited affection for top-of-the-class Justine (Tuppence Middleton) is completely impossible; she doesn’t even know he’s alive. When Mullet is driven to suicide, Justine is asked to give his eulogy at a school assembly. Her generic memorial glosses over the, well, torment, of his school life, causing Mullet’s only friend, the thin nerd Jason Banks (Olly Alexander) to decry her hypocrisy. A convenient twist of fate, and teenage hormones, brings Justine into a relationship with the witty, popular Alexis (Dmitri Leonidas). As Justine enters his popular circle, led by the swaggering Bradley (Alex Pettyfer) and cruel Tasha (April Pearson), she is brought face to face with both sides of the bullying and abuse that have previously been unknown to her. But the memory of Mullet is not going gently into the dark, and a spirit of revenge will, say it with me, torment his tormentors.

The attempts to tie the scares to modern technology, like ever-present cell phones, are undercut by the squeaky voice and cheap IM-smiley-style graphics delivering the threats. The inclusion of camera-phone films and MySpace style bullying pages are timely, but also immediately dated. Ultimately the tension is never allowed to build, the scares are all telegraphed, the monster-vision is kind of annoying, and when the killer finally appears it is so underwhelming that one almost longs for a full-on, Jason Vorhees style monster instead.

The film does try to make a couple of worthwhile points. While teen-horror films are expected to have some sexual current, this one makes an effort to present and normalize teens using contraception. While the there’s no visible nudity, the condom packets are clearly and emphatically shown and seem to be used correctly by the characters as a matter of habit; kudos to the director for that. It also tries to imply that bullying is, or can be, a problem for any sort of student, be they fat, skinny, emo or goth. But that’s about it.

Except for the nerds, the characters are all blandly attractive and look just a little too mature to be still be attending school. But they’re all shallow, one-note caricatures. The movie fails because the action follows the popular kids, from their perspective, with all the limited awareness and understanding that entails. And most unfortunately, no one is likable enough to root for, no one really seems to learn anything from their experience, and no one suffers enough to justify the proceedings in any sort of balancing of the karmic scales. It’s all just a bunch of unpleasant stuff happening to a group of two-dimensional stereotypes, whether they deserve it or not.

2 out of 6 stars

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