Another day, another slasher movie. But this is no ‘We know what you did last summer, so scream when you’ve reached your final destination’ type of affair. Well, it is, sort of, but this time it’s coming from our side of the pond, good old Blighty…
To summarise Tormented, I’d say look towards Channel 4’s televisual offering Skins, and what do you think of? Oversexed smart-arse teenagers with wit faster than they can down a bottle of Bacardi, which they all seem to have a strong penchant for, never mind the drugs! Take all those components, add a “zombie ghost thing” (as director Jon Wright described it) and you get Tormented.
Opening at the funeral of schoolboy Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean), we quickly learn he wasn’t exactly part of the cool crowd. In fact, he wasn’t really part of any cliques, he was one of those invisible kids that no-one really knew, or cared about for that matter. That’s not the case for Bradley (Alex Pettyfer) and his tribe (Tom Hopper, Georgia King, April Pearson and Larissa Wilson – notably the latter pair both starred in Skins) though, who made Mullet’s life a living hell, bullying him to such a degree that he ended up killing himself.
Everyone is aware this is the case, except for innocent head girl Justine (Tuppence Middleton), but Mullet’s loner buddy, Jason (Olly Alexander), is the only one brave (or is that stupid?) enough to vocalize it. His efforts are useless though, as Justine is quickly swept away from her Keira Knightley-obsessed friends (played by Mary Nighy and Ruby Bentall), semi-accepted by the in-crowd when she’s invited to a party in ‘honour’ of Mullet by class hottie Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas).
Things quickly develop between the pair and Justine becomes entranced by the idea of having some fun (and losing her virginity) before she disappears off to Oxford where she’s been accepted to read Law. However, bespectacled Jason just wont let matters lie, and insists on giving Justine the suicide note Mullet wrote for her, confirming not only that the bullies are to blame for his death but also that he adored her from afar, and so he’ll watch over her like a guardian angel.
Understandably this gives her the creeps, particularly since she just cannot recall who he was, and his ‘presence’ in corridors, empty bathrooms and the like doesn’t help with this unease. This is a feeling matched by the rest of her new crowd when they all start getting these weird death-threat text messages from his phone. Soon after their numbers begin to dwindle, rapidly…
Perhaps Mullet (or Shrek as he’s affectionately referred to) isn’t quite as dead as we were all led to believe. No, he’s the “zombie ghost thing” and he’s on one hell of a mission: to destroy all that led to his demise. Trouble is now his beloved has gone and popped her cherry with Alexis, one of the fellas on his list, will his promise to watch over her remain the same or is her fate already sealed?
This is all fairly predictable fodder for anyone that’s a fan of films of this genre. You’ve only got to look at Scream (Wes Craven), and it gives you the formula: beautiful young cast put under threat by a mystery source, their fates all sealed from the beginning, all except the pure heroine – but only if she can remain ‘honourable’. Indeed, Tormented isn’t exactly refreshing in its approach to the genre, and its writer (Stephen Prentice) and director are keen to cite their adherence to the tried and tested formula, although they’ve added more elements of humour than one might usually expect.
Certainly, in this regard, Tormented struggles with where to position itself, which can seem a little jarring. This is especially true of Mullet’s character; are we meant to find him menacing or comedic? (Dean’s similarity in appearance to that of James Corden hardly helps matters). I don’t think this had been quite figured out in the boardroom and, at times, it shows.
Nevertheless it didn’t have me groaning (and I mean that in the boredom sense, thank-you) like some of its contemporaries. Sure some of the dialogue is a little naff, and the storyline is a little unsuprising (albeit with a twist at the end) but such a film holds no pretensions to be anything more, does it?
C+ - An anti-bullying campaign in film form if ever I saw one.