As far as horror movies go, Tormented makes for some pretty uncomfortable viewing. Not because there is a lot of gratuitous blood and gore, but because it deals with the very topical issue of bullying.
As the film starts we are in a chaotic present in which something horrible has taken place. As we flash back to a funeral 5 days earlier, it soon becomes clear that no-one really cares about the deceased, and the students’ wake is just an excuse for a big party.
The first death goes unreported, and it is the only clue that something is not quite right. It is not until about an hour into the movie that we are actually confronted with the undead, in the form of the zombified protagonist Darren Mullett (actor Calvin Dean) who has returned to take revenge on his tormentors. Up to that point we have been watching an hour of taunts, the kind of bullying our avenger would have been the target of. We only see it happen to him through phone movies of the attacks he endured which had been posted online to further humiliate and vilify him.
The one character the audience will empathise more with, head girl Justine, is also not entirely sympathetic, lost as she is in her own self-obsession. This obviously makes her more human, but at this point our zombie friend, once secretly in love with her, also sees her as unforgivably flawed…
In terms of structure, Tormented does not distance itself from clichéd slasher teen flicks: it is almost entirely devoid of adults, the only authority figures are a few marginal teachers and cops, the kids are spoilt bored brats you do not feel much sympathy for, and they all die in customized killing rituals which increase in brutality as the movie progresses. It was the intention of director Jon Wright to create a movie which was set in a ‘normal’ British school, but the result does not sway too far from the overused format of plush surroundings, spoilt kids and quirky teachers.
Stylistically, Tormented could be summed up as a slasher Skins, with kids driving sports cars and hanging out by their swimming pools when not making their own ‘happy slapping’ contributions to society. As commendable as a home-grown product is (and remarkably, with no US star in the cast to sell the movie), when there are slick zombie offerings like Dead Set on our TV screens, Tormented needs to be more compelling to stand out from the crowd.
Tormented is released in the UK on the 22nd of May.