Starring: Suzi Lorraine, Tom Steadman, Ted Alderman and Lucien Eisenach
Director: Steve Sessions
Rating: Five of Ten Stars
A young woman (Lorraine) is released from a mental hospital into the care of her alcoholic husband. The two go to an isolated house so she can continue her recovery and they can renew their relationship in a quiet environment. Unfortunately for them, a psycho in a clown costume (Eisenach) is capturing and torturing people in the area.
This movie was hard for me to assign a rating to. While there is much about it that I like, there is much I don't like. It's one of the better psycho clown movies I've seen, but it's got some serious flaws.
Suzi Lorraine gives an interesting performance as Lauren, a former mental patient who spots a psychotic killer as he picks out his next victim, but who is disbelieved due to her history of mental illness. The way the script sets up the chain of events that leads Lauren into the worst possible danger is well executed and her confrontation with the Killer Clown (called Dissecto in the credits but unnamed in the film istself) is very suspenseful. Unfortunately, these strong parts of the movie are undermined and outweighed by the weak parts.
"Torment" feels like its two halfbaked scripts that have been combined into one film. They weren't necessarily BAD scripts... they're just unpolished and they work against each other and ultimately end up undermining what suspense and tension they could have produced if they had been two different movies.
The clunky dialogue at times made up for by some well done lines, and the few overlong and even redundant scenes in the film are likewise counterbalanced by some truly creepy, scary and startling moments. (For example, the repeatative expository scenes and dialogue of the fact that Lauren is fresh out of mental hospital are annoying, but they are more than made up for the scene where Dissecto invades her home, or when she is hiding in his.) As far as this goes, the good counterbalances the bad.
However, the way the film makes it crystal clear from the outset that Lauren isn't hallucinating the spooky clown lurking in the bushes-- the extended scenes of him torturing a pair of missing Mormon missionaries is most definately not something she's imagining--and so there is no real tension produced by the "is she crazy or isn't she" question... although it does make her husband come across like a grade-A asshole. If you're into "torture porn", I suppose you might enjoy those aforementioned scenese of Dissecto performing for and upon his victimes, but I'm too squeamish for that sort of thing--having recently experienced my own encounter with excruciating pain has made that sort of material hard for me to watch--but the sloppy costuming of the "Mormons" can't be anything but a strike against the movie. (It's bad enough one of the "Mormons" had a shaved head, but none of their missionaries would EVER sport a soul patch/jazz dot!)
Bad costuming (and the sloppy direction that allows it to happen aside) it's the absolute certainty the audience has of Dissecto's existence that undermines Lauren's story. It makes us dislike her husband to a disproportionate degree and it makes everything leading up to her encounter with Dissecto feel like it goes on and on, because we know the real action won't start until he dispatches the husband and starts stalking her.
And that's too bad. Suzi Lorraine gives an good performance, but my impatience with wanting the movie to get to where the real action was made it hard to notice. Tom Steadman likewise gave a decent accounting of himself as Lauren's moronic husband... and I think that if he had been given better dialogue to deliver, he might have been even better. (To a large extent, he's The Amazing Redundant Exposition Man, and this reduces his role to something less that what it could have been.)
"Torment" is a movie that has a lot to recommend to fans of thrillers, slasher movies, and "torture porn". Unfortuantely, the thriller elements and "torture porn" elements are at odds with each other and between them they almost manage to make the slasher element moot and make the ending seem false and forced because it doesn't feel like a natural outgrowth of anything. These, plus the stilted and clumsy nature of some of the dialogue and the excessive exposition in certain scenes drag this down to a low end of average, despite its strong points. (Speaking of excessive exposition... one thing the film never even hints at is the Who and the Why of Dissecto. Part of me would like to know more about him, but another part of me likes the "senseless evil" aspect this presents. I think the fact I'm torn is another sign that the script needed more work.)
Despite its flaws, though, "Torment" is worth checking out if you're into killer clowns, or if you enjoy small-scale horror films.