It’s torture porn. There’s no getting around that fact and it doesn’t matter how the torturers agonise over their actions or how many times the back of the box claims the film investigates the line between right and wrong. It’s still just torture porn. Pretty much the only reason to watch the film is to see another person get brutalised.
It’s also not an entirely bad film.
It goes against all the odds to reach that consensus, admittedly. The Tortured really shouldn’t be as watchable as it is. Films like this, using actors who are only known for minor roles in big hits and which are based on such tawdry, controversy-baiting topics are nearly always terrible, right? Regardless, The Tortured, starring the gardener boy from Desperate Housewives and Michael Douglas’ junkie daughter From Traffic, actually ends up being a lot better than you might expect.
The secret to The Tortured‘s success is simply that it moves at an almost perfect pace. Everyone working on the film knows exactly how crass the film is, but they also know that their audience likely isn’t entirely stupid. So, while some time is spent building up the characters and the background, it’s never over-egged.
The writers, the actors, the director, they all know that the audience wants The Tortured to disgust them, but they also recognise that that revulsion needs some sort of context. Thus, we’re told that the son of the stereotypically studly couple was kidnapped and tortured to death by a psycho with daddy issues, but we’re never lectured about it. The backstory is fired at you in whip-fast flashbacks and then it’s back to stubbing cigarettes out on the bad guy, just the first punishment the vengeful parents unleash on their victim.
And there’s an awful lot of that sort of thing to watch too, not that you’d expect much less from a film called The Tortured, mind. Feet are crushed, skin is burned, eardrums are popped and more livers are pulverised than you’d find at the end of a stag party in Glasgow. Again, recognising what viewers are after, the film isn’t afraid to linger on these scenes or go in for a close-up. If you didn’t want to see someone get stabbed with a soldering iron, then what are you doing watching this anyway?
The remarkable thing about The Tortured, though, is that it functions as a gestalt, making it almost impossible to know who the driving force behind things is. Is it the writers, the actors, the director or just Johnny the teaboy who’s given The Tortured such an excellent understanding of what it needs to be? Whoever, they deserve a pat on the back, because The Tortured is easily one of the most tolerable films in this genre we’ve ever seen, even with the foreseeable twist ending. No particular section really excels, nor is anything truly terrible. It’s all just quite good.
Sadly, while The Tortured understands its place in the history of cinema, that does come with a few downsides. In this case, a lack of ambition. As the climax nears, The Tortured teases audiences by hinting that it’s about to go in a different direction and that the hunters may suddenly become the hunted, but it’s sadly just a ruse as the film rushes towards a moralising finale. Abrupt and premature, it feels more like the writers had run out of ideas than a true ending.
The Tortured knows exactly what it is supposed to be and pursues that aim so doggedly that it prevents itself from becoming anything more. The tables never turn and the torturers are never anything more than they seem to be.
The Tortured is definitely more watchable and ‘enjoyable’ than some of the films it shares a genre with, but it never rises to become anything more than the sum of its parts. It’s still just torture porn, and while that works for some people for some of the time, it’s ultimately neither rewatchable nor revolutionary.
The Tortured is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.