Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Face Text

Now let us turn to ancient times, the distant year of 2009 and a mediocre horror movie that came out that year, Tormented. Thanks to rapidly changing technology and shifting social political discourse, this film feels extraordinarily dated, though I doubt it was any better when it was new.

A group of teenagers who look like they escaped from an acne medication commercial find themselves being killed off one by one by the ghost of Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean).

He looks like he was cast because he looks like Vincent D'Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket when he glowers. His story isn't dissimilar--the kids he's killing off now are the ones who bullied him until he committed suicide. Certainly I don't feel very sorry for his victims. Each one is obnoxious and stupid, not so much in credible ways as in stock character ways.

They kick, push, and laugh at Darren and others, their jibs about sex--other people being too slutty or too virginal--coming off as though filtered through a sitcom based on an opinion column based on second hand information about high school. The school faculty never seem to be around when actual bullying occurs and when we do see the faculty they're taking cartoonishly ineffective measures like putting up anti-bullying banners.

One interesting aspect of the film as an artefact is its take on bullying electronically. This was right at the end of the era that stretched back to the computer messaging in Pretty and Pink where filmmakers had to dream up awkward ways to represent electronic communication in film. Now that we're all dug into the weary reality of social media, Tormented's use of texted, animated emoji on flip phones that repeat audible insults is artificial in ways that intriguingly reflect the presumptions of the filmmakers. The extent of the bullying carried out online is an actual web site set up with video posted of Darren being bullied. Which seems like it would be a liability for the bullies more than anything else.

I haven't even mentioned the film's protagonist, Justine (Tuppence Middleton), whose obliviousness is unintentionally hilarious. She has no memory of Darren, who had a crush on her. A scene depicting the bullies stealing his inhaler on the web site shows her improbably not noticing him begging her to help him while she talks on the phone. She befriends the bullies even though they insult her and her film club friends because she doesn't seem to quite understand when the girls throw thinly veiled insults at her about her sluttishness and the possibility that she has crabs.

The film's certainly never scary. Even the jump scares are badly timed. Maybe you're wondering, "Why the hell did you watch this?" My web browser's home page opens a random Wikipedia article and this movie came up. I love going off the beaten path and it seemed like a movie I wouldn't normally seek out. I guess it hasn't killed that adventurous spirit, I have seen worse.

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