So, it looks like we’re going from The Tortured to Torment in our little scattershot random sampling of horror flicks currently available via Netflix instant streaming, and the results are about as similar as the admittedly uninspired titles — low-budget indie horror shot on the cheap in the Vancouver area that attempts to cash in on a currently semi-popular genre trend (in this case picking up on the “home invasion” theme it was beaten to the punch by relatively recently by flicks like You’re Next and The Strangers) and largely fails to elicit much more than a collective yawn from the audience.
Not that director Jordan Barker doesn’t seem to be trying here — his effective use of moody lighting and reasonably authentic production designs, as well as the largely competent-if-uninspired performances he gets from his cast, combine to show that he’s giving his 2013-released opus-on-a-shoestring the ol’ college try, but it’s just not enough to overcome an inherently weak script that treads overly-familiar turf in an even-more-overly-familiar fashion.
Here we go with the depressingly by-the-numbers particulars : young widower Cory Morgan (with a name like that how can you not hate him instantly?) and his newly-minted second wife, Sarah, decide to lamely attempt to speed up the “bonding process” between her and her less-than-thrilled-about-things stepson, Liam, by spending a few days at their rural family cabin. Because, ya know, nothing bad ever happens at cabins in the movies. Their idyllic nuclear family retreat is soon rudely interrupted, however, by some big dude in a mouse mask, and his two female accomplices, who wear this visages of a pig and a monkey. They steal the kid in an attempt to expand their makeshift brood, and it’s up to dad and you’re-not-my-mommy to find the temperamental little brat and rescue him from the clutches of his lamely-disguised abductors. Things don’t go as planned. And by the way, what happened to the family that used to live next door, the Bronsons, and their youthful daughter, Mary?
There might be a comment buried in here somewhere about the state of today’s often-makeshift families not being too terribly different from the entirely impromptu mutual-survival unit being hastily (and violently) assembled by the killer known only as Mr. Mouse in the credits, but that’s probably giving this film too large a tip of the cap. Mostly Barker’s goal seems to be trying to scare his audience, which is plenty worthy enough, but this overdone premise just isn’t up to the job. Maybe 7 or 8 years ago, but not these days.
Which is a bit of a shame, really, since, as mentioned, Robin Dunne as Cory, Katherine Isabelle as Sarah, Noah Danby as Mr. Mouse, Amy Forsyth and Mary, and particularly youthful actor Peter DaCunha as Liam all put in by and large very serviceable work, as does Barker himself. But it’s a wasted effort in service of a tired, hackneyed, woefully-played-out setup. Honestly, nothing about Torment will stick with you after you’ve seen it, apart from the occasional cool-looking shot, like this one :
Is that enough to carry an 80-plus-minute production? Clearly not — and just as clearly, you’ve got better things to do with 80-plus minutes of your time. At least I dearly hope so.