Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Alex Pettyfer, April Pearson, Dimitri Leonidas, Calvin Dean
Directed by Jon Wright
High School can be hell, and I’m sure anyone who has suffered at the hands of bullies can attest to the hours spent silently imagining the various terrible fates that could befall each and every one of them. Now, here comes Tormented - a great little dose of catharsis.
The film opens with our lead, Justine (Tuppence Middleton), being led out of the school doors by police, bloodstained and traumatised. Flash back five days and she’s giving a reading at the funeral of Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean), a schoolmate who has recently hung himself after receiving one hounding too many from the “cool” kids – not to mention his unrequited crush on Justine herself. After the funeral, Justine is drawn into the group of bullies having succumbed to the charming advances of Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas) – just in time to see Mullet resurrected from the dead and seeking bloody vengeance ...
High School existence is portrayed extremely well in Jon Wright’s low-budget comedy-horror, apparently shot for less than £1 million ($1.6 million at today’s exchange rates) , with our unrepentant group of victims-to-be (including April Pearson and Larissa Wilson, alumni of the very successful UK TV series Skins) all coming across as solid personalities. Even though the distinction between them, for example the “jock”, the sex-mad nympho, and the dumb blonde may on paper look like your cliché slasher fodder, each actor brings a refreshing spark to their role. You don’t get bored of seeing any of them on screen. Middleton excels as Justine, a girl simply not used to mixing with these type of people (in fact, her usual nerdy friends are used to great comedic effect when she begins snubbing them to go out with Alexis and his crew), exposing her humanity and recognisable vulnerability as she tests uncharted waters. An absolute standout is James Floyd as Nasser, head of the school’s Goth group. Both his and his entourage’s dialogue is hilarious, and his experience at the hands of Mullet’s ghost leads to a fantastic running joke.
In fact, the only real disappointing character in the film is that of Darren Mullet himself. It’s never really explained whether he is a ghost, a zombie, or something else. He is obviously physical and can be beaten, shoved and carry objects, but he also appears to have a teleport ability, exceptional strength, and supernatural control over the surroundings. His physical appearance – obese, varicose-veined and slack-jawed, huffing on his inhaler isn’t particularly threatening or upsetting however his actions more than make up for that. Our tubby terminator shows no mercy, and for once in a long time I found myself watching a film in which absolutely nobody was safe. When the undead Mullet discovers Justine’s romantic entanglement with Alexis, it may be the first time you’ll ever see a zombie-ghost cry – and it’s also a moment that signals all bets are off. Calvin Dean does his best to make Mullet as menacing as possible, and does succeed in a few instances simply by the way he stares at his victims.
Tormented also deserves praise for really running with the focus of any movie like this – the kills! Blood sprays and splashes everywhere during some of them – some to comedic effect, others in a sheer nasty way (one screwdriver death is a splashy standout). I won’t go into too much detail with these as the surprise is part and parcel of enjoyment of the movie, but it does contain THE best eyeball gag I’ve seen in a long time.
Of course, it bears reminding that this is a comedy-horror so do expect to laugh at a lot of it. Stephen Prentice’s screenplay straddles both genres perfectly, allowing the humor to flow organically from the characters and situations rather than forcing it down our throats and keeping a consistent balance between scares and laughs. Genuinely successful comedy-horror flicks don’t come along too often, and Tormented deserves to stand next to the likes of Shaun of the Dead as an almost perfect hybrid. The shortcomings are far overcome by what the film does right, and the characters and pacing keep the entirety of the proceedings interesting and upbeat.
If the image of an overweight undead murderer drowning a girl by sitting on her chest in a swimming pool while wearing goggles seems like a step too far, I’d possibly recommend avoiding Tormented – however you’d be missing a treat. The visual laughs are very well staged and it never truly veers off into silliness. There’s a huge amount of respect for the horror side of things here as well. If it sounds like your cup of tea, then dive in as soon as you possibly can.
No official US release date is currently available for Tormented, however hopefully it will be there sooner rather than later. It’s more than worth your time.
4 out of 5
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