Director: Jordan Barker
A widower, Cory (Robin Dunne – Just Friends, the SciFi Channel’s Sanctuary), and his deeply affected young son, Liam, prepare for a getaway to their cabin with Cory’s new wife, Sarah (Katherine Isabelle – Ginger Snaps, American Mary). Despite her best efforts to bond with the boy, Sarah’s affections are resoundingly rejected by the still grieving child.
It’s not clear just how long ago Mom died, but the film makes it feel as if the tragedy is still fresh. Liam is still quite young, maybe no more than 10 or 11. So, while it may or may not have had any impact on the film, I have to wonder if this new marriage was a rushed engagement, which would help further justify Liam’s air of resentment toward this woman who is seemingly attempting to replace his mother.
Liam displays his resentment by being a little prick to Sarah every time she tries to interact with him. He usually chooses not to speak to her, but when he does it’s only to tell her not to do something or that he doesn’t love her.
They arrive at the “cabin”, which is actually a sizable house located in what would appear to be a remote, but presumably somewhat affluent, wooded region. However, the family soon discovers that someone has been using the house in their absence, leaving the place trashed. A large hole is found in a cellar door, the means used to enter the house by the intruder(s).
Police are contacted, but the deputy (Stephen McHattie – Pontypool, Death Valley) dispatched to the house is less than concerned, attributing the “break-in” to teens who found an empty house in which to party for a few days. He gives them his card and leaves. Cory sets to boarding up the hole, refusing to leave the cabin for what he also believes to be just kids. He finishes the job and heads back upstairs to his family; the light seeping in when he opens the door at the top of the stairs, faintly illuminating down on what appears to be a family hidden in the shadows of the cellar.
Cory steps out for a smoke and a quick check of the yard. He’s alerted to a sound coming from the surrounding woods and sets out to investigate, leaving his family alone back at the house and essentially negating the whole concept of protecting them. Now, let me lay some science on yo ass! There are all kinds of sounds emanating from the woods, and generally speaking, the sources for most of those sounds will kill you! So, just stay the fuck out of the woods, okay? Friday the 13th. Madman. The Burning. Without A Paddle. How many movies do you need to watch in order to grasp the concept that nothing good happens in the woods? Ever! Moving on.
As they sleep through their first night in the house, Sarah is woken in the late hours by the sound of someone slowly creeping up the creaky staircase. This is followed by a shadow passing by the bedroom door. She wakes her husband and they inspect the halls, but as should be expected, nothing and no one is found. Blaming nervousness from the earlier incidents, they prepare to return to bed, but first decide to check in on Liam. They open the door to the boy’s room to discover him missing. Downstairs, the front door of the house has been left wide open.
They search outside for the boy, but are quickly derailed when Sarah steps on a rusty nail. Cory carries her inside and calls the police officer who was out earlier in the day. However, just as he is about to leave a message, a siren chirp is heard from outside. The officer’s car is already in their driveway, lights flashing.
Corey approaches the squad car, as Sarah notices Liam’s stuffed animals on a nearby table. The heads have been cut off of each. Now closer to the vehicle, Corey notices that something is seriously wrong just seconds before the car explodes into a tower of flame. A large man emerges from the darkness wearing the head of Liam’s favorite stuffed mouse as a mask.
The couple retreat back inside the house, but there are immediate signs that the intruders had already made their way in. Cell phones have been stolen. Landlines have been cut. Corey has Sarah barricade herself in their upstairs bedroom while he attempts to run to a neighboring house in search of help.
In no time, Sarah makes the mistake of unbarricading the door after hearing the sound of toys being played with in Liam’s room. She is quickly subdued by one of the intruders. Corey is also quickly subdued by masked assailants upon reaching the neighbor’s house and discovering that they have been killed, as witnessed in the film’s opening moments. So, yeah… no “spoiler” there.
Somehow, a bound Sarah frees herself from her restraints and escapes the house. Her attacker, who appears to be a woman, is stealthily in pursuit. When she realizes that her car keys are still in the house, she is forced to re-enter, only to once again be forced to find her way out. I mention this as it feels like more of an attempt to pad the film’s runtime than an attempt to expand the plot.
Meanwhile, at the neighbor’s house, Corey is bound to a chair and tortured by a large man and what appears to be a young child, both adorned in the masks made from the heads of Liam’s stuffed animal friends. The man repeated;y tells Corey that he must “tell the truth” and pay for destroying his own family. However, anyone expecting some “deep revelation” will surely be disappointed as there is no “truth” to be revealed.
If there is one “given” in Torment, it’s that tying up any of these seemingly normal “everyday” people is totally useless as they are able to escape from any bindings faster than Harry Houdini. This is once again proven in short order when Corey also frees himself from his restraints just as he too seems mere moments from death.
From here, Torment becomes fairly routine with both Corey and Sarah battling their captors as they attempt to save Liam and escape with their lives. While I surely wouldn’t call it a poorly made film, I just never found Torment to be particularly exciting or suspenseful. That’s not to say that it doesn’t provide some entertainment, but it’s just never thrilling or unique enough to really move me in any way. Performances are solid enough, but no actor particularly stands out. The film ends in a fashion that leaves it open for sequels, but I just can’t see more of a story to be told here than already was.
Torment can be found in the dump bin at your local Dollar General for about $2 or $3, or about the cost of a video rental. Ya know, from a video store? Those things that used to exist? And really, that’s what this film reminds me of. It’s that little film that you’ve never heard of, but are forced to rent because you stumbled your wasted ass into Blockbuster 30 minutes before closing on a Friday night and nothing else was left. Sure, it might be entertaining enough when watched through a cloud of bong-smoke while you suck down some cheap beer and munch away on some delivery pizza with a couple of your buds, but…. what were we talking about?