The Tortured (2010)

Brought to us by the minds behind some of the Saw films, The Tortured centres around an emotionally devastated couple who kidnap the killer of their son, chain him in their basement, and put him through intense pain and torture (hey, that’s dangerously close to a title warning!). Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe play the couple who wrestle with the moral dubiousness of what they are doing, coupled with the paranoia of being caught. Oh, and Bill ‘THE BADDEST OF ASSES OF HORROR’ Moseley plays the tortured (there we go… TITLE!).

This is a tough film to write about without spoiling the only redeemable part of the film, so I will start off positive by saying that there is quite a nice pay off that at least leaves you feeling somewhat satisfied with the film. Aside from this clever(ish) ending, there is little left to enjoy. The film is mean spirited to the bone, seemingly genuinely devised to cash in on the ‘torture porn’ buzz and the success of the Hostel and Saw films. What those films have that this film lacks is a sense of story, whether it be satirical in the former or moral questioning in the latter.

In The Tortured, what you get is what is described above; a couple kidnap their son’s killer and torture him. That is it. Sure, there are some arbitrary side plots and a few by-the-numbers inconveniences thrown in the mix, but nothing you couldn’t predict from a mile off.

The film is very shallow, genuinely existing because it thinks so little of the blood-and-guts crowd that they will soak up any old drivel given to them, as long as it is covered in enough of the red stuff. No, it just doesn’t work. There are fantastically fun bloody films out there, like Braindead or Dawn of the Dead, and there are nasty torture films out there, like the Guinea Pig or Faces of Death series. The Tortured stumbles on the line between the two extremes. It is a tough watch but at the same time, it is a slick production. It’s hard to tell if it wants to repulse you or to sell popcorn, though the latter seems like a safer bet.

It’s hard to tell why such proper actors are in this thing (which really should never have risen above micro-budget rough indie level), but they are. Christensen and Metcalfe give decent performances, but there just isn’t enough to hold your attention for the full 79 minute run time. The big shocker here is just how subdued Moseley is, but by the end of the film, you get the impression he wasn’t exactly involved for the love of it.

Director Robert Lieberman comes from a predominantly TV background, and writer Marek Posival has no other writing credits bar a short, so it is difficult to tell who is responsible for the uneven nature of the film. The story that should be compelling and gut-wrenching (in an emotional way), but the drama is constantly underwritten by violence and predictable plotting.

People talk about Human Centipede 2 being gratuitous violence, but I think that only gets the short end of the stick because it goes the whole nine yards. I’d argue that The Tortured is a far more deprived film, not because it is more graphically violent (though it definitely is more violent than your average horror flick), but because its intent is so heartless. Look at a brutal film like Martyrs, which walks all sorts of lines, but ultimately has a purpose, whereas this film pretends it has a purpose so it can drunkenly swagger over into ‘hey man, isn’t this sick?’ territory. People talk about sequels and remakes being done for a quick buck, but right here is the ultimate ill-informed cash-in.

The Tortured is technically competent and acted appropriately, and maybe some people will enjoy its shamelessly exploitative ways, but be warned, there is no slapstick fun or moral weight here, but a total vacuum where the film thinks it’s cleverer than it is. Don’t let it fool you. It isn’t that smart. It solely exists to try squeeze another few bucks out of the gore crowd. Do yourself a favour, skip this and go watch Saw part 52 instead.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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