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While Torment offers nothing new to the horror genre, it is a very well made Canadian thriller that provides some very effective chills in it’s 80+ minute running time. After a grim opening at a secluded house, the film settles into the story of widower Cory Morgan (Robin Dunne), his new bride Sarah (Katharine Isabelle) and Cory’s young son Liam (Peter DaCunha) who is not warming up to his new step-mom at all. Cory decides to take them to a remote, family vacation house in the woods for some time to bond. But upon arrival, it appears there has been somebody squatting in the secluded house and unknown to the young couple, they haven’t exactly left yet. Soon Liam vanishes and Cory and Sarah find themselves pitted against a trio of disturbed masked individuals in a fight for their lives and for Liam’s as well.
While normally I am not a fan of the recent torture and home invasion sub-genres, Torment did have elements of both, but these familiar elements were used fleetingly and effectively. Director Jordan Baker knows not to dwell on the more brutal aspects of Michael Foster and Thomas Pound’s script and thus when the shocking moments come, they are effective and we are never bludgeoned over the head with the rough stuff. Baker builds some nice suspense and tension and even successfully creates a likable little family unit that is going through a rough adjustment period and we sympathize with them and that gives us someone to care for when our mysterious intruders reveal themselves. And that, unfortunately, is also one of it’s flaws. The film is a little too ambiguous about the overall purpose of it’s invaders and we never really find out who they are. Sometimes ambiguity is good for a story, but here we needed a little more as to why this bunch is so happily homicidal and intent on keeping Liam. There seems to be something about building their own family, which contrasts the Morgans’ attempt to bring peace to their little trio, but a little more about this Chainsaw Massacre-ish clan would have helped. Jordan Baker does keep the flick moving fast enough that we don’t ask too many questions while it plays out and he has a nice eye for his shots and makes good use of his rural house settings and overall, gives the film some nice atmosphere to go along with the suspense and chills. It’s only once the film reaches it’s conclusion that we start to realize that the whole point is kinda vague. And at that juncture we have been already been moderately entertained and spooked. Familiar material made effective by a good director’s hand.
Another plus in the flick’s favor is that cast are all really solid. We have genre vet, Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, American Mary) giving a strong performance as Sarah. She conveys the young woman’s desire to bond with Liam and the pain she feels when she is being rejected by him. She also presents a resilience and strength when Liam is taken and she is under siege by their uninvited guests and she fights for Liam with a strong maternal instinct despite his rejection. Dunne is also good as a man caught in the middle of a new wife and his son’s grief for his deceased mom and then must fight for his and their very lives when this predatory bunch invades their already fragile family bonding vacation. Also good is young Peter Dacunha, who at 11 is already a horror movie vet having been in The Barrens and Haunter before appearing in this flick. The young actor succeeds in expressing the pain of not only his mother’s loss, but his reluctance to accept his new step-mom and does so without coming across as an annoying brat. Good work kid! As for our spooky mask wearing ‘family’ Noah Danby as ‘Mouse’, Inessa Frantowsky as ‘Pig’, Amy Forsyth as ‘Monkey’ and Joe Silvaggio as ‘Rabbit’ all do well in conveying a sense of menace with little or no dialogue. It’s too bad they weren’t given more meat to their story. There is also a small role of a local cop played by vet Stephan McHattie, who is a welcome addition to any cast.
Sure Torment has it’s flaws. The villains’ purpose is never clear, nor do we get any background on who they are, where they came from and why they are building this disturbing patch-work family…and quite violently, might I add. But, it has a good cast led by fan-favorite Isabelle and director Jordan Barker really knows how to build suspense and thrills and has an effective but not overstated visual style that gives this rural set flick a lot of atmosphere. The gore and violence is used wisely to maintain it’s effectiveness and we are given characters to care about which goes along way in helping us overlook that we don’t really know the full reasons for this vicious attack and that we’ve seen it all before. Not a classic by any stretch, but an effective little thriller that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and shows strong potential for director Jordan Baker with a more solid story and script.
3 scary mouse masks.