Erika Christensen - Elise Landry
Jesse Metcalfe - Craig Landry
Bill Lippincott - Galligan
Bill Moseley - John Kozlowski
Fulvio Cecere - Detective Berger
Thomas Greenwood - Ben Landry
Genre - Horror/Thriller/Revenge/Torture
Running Time - 80 Minutes
Craig (Jesse Metcalfe) and Elise (Erika Christensen) Landry are distraught when their young son, Ben (Thomas Greenwood), is abducted right under Craig's nose while he was distracted. While the young couple pray for good news, their hopes are dashed when local police stumble upon Ben's deceased body at the hands of a pedophile named John Kozlowski (Bill Moseley). Things get worse when Kozlowski gets a light sentence of 25 to life with the eligibility of parole when he makes a deal to give information on the remains of his other victims. This doesn't please the Landrys at all.
Not understanding why their son didn't receive the justice they felt he deserved, Craig and Elise believe the best way to make sure justice is served is by kidnapping Kozlowski and then torturing him until he dies from it. As a doctor, Craig gathers drugs that will mess up the drivers of the vehicle transporting Kozlowski to prison. When it works, the Landrys take Kozlowski to a secluded cabin - strapping the killer down and torturing him with drugs, cigarette burns, and other tools at their disposal, not realizing that the police are close to figuring out the truth.
I have three words for THE TORTURED:
WHAT THE FUCK!?
- Erika Christensen. While the acting wasn't totally terrible in THE TORTURED [just uninspired], only Ms. Christensen seemed to understand what her role was and portrayed it convincingly enough. I'm not saying she's fantastic or anything, but at least I felt something as she grieved for her son and wanted revenge on the man who murdered him. The material she had to work with didn't help, to be honest, but Christensen made the most of what she was given and didn't go over the top to sell the character's confusion, frustration, and misery of the situation. So I'm spotlighting her for that.
- A promising first act. While not great, at least the first act tries to be unsettling and emotional as the parents realize their kidnapped child was murdered by a perverted psychopath. I do have issues with how it was presented, as the kidnapping happens BEFORE the film even starts and what led to it is shown in some sort of time-shift pattern that's unnecessary. But at least I understood what was going on, why the parents were frustrated [not only with the police, but with each other for not preventing the situation was occurring], and the scene where the body is found is pretty creepy and effective. Unfortunately once the issue of revenge comes into play after the sentencing, THE TORTURED falls apart and begins living up to its title. But it starts off well enough to engage you, even if it's not flawless.
- The torture scenes. THE TORTURED was produced by people involved with the SAW franchise, so you'd expect some graphic violence somewhere in the film. It's not as gory or inventive as what is seen in SAW, or even HOSTEL. But some moments do make you cringe, like the twisting of Kozlowski's foot, breaking his toes, and a scene where Craig cuts his stomach open with a scalpel and pulls out his intestines in front of him. There's nothing over the top about the graphic violence here. It's done in a pretty realistic looking way and there are some moments of tension during these scenes. I think these portions were the most effective part of THE TORTURED, even if it did make the film seem like a lesser version of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
- Jesse Metcalfe and Bill Moseley. I hate putting these two actors in the negative category, but their performances were either bland, or too hammy for me to take seriously. Unlike a lot of people, I don't mind Jesse Metcalfe so much. He's mainly a soap opera actor due to his good looks and narrow range in acting, but I respect that. And he does try hard here in THE TORTURED to make Craig seem like a sympathetic character. The problem is that his grieving is never convincing, as he makes just a sad face throughout and never seems to cry or break down like Christensen does with her role. And then to compensate for that, he likes to yell and act angry. I'm not sure if this was done in the script, or the director told him to behave like that, but Metcalfe as Craig seemed underwhelming and bland. I felt the role was majorly miscast.
As for Moseley, here's a great actor who is given a limited role that requires him to behave like Otis from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL REJECTS, but x10. All he's required to do is scream at people and put on make up to dress like a princess. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyone could have portrayed this weak character, but obviously producers knew that Bill Moseley would sell the film to a hungry horror crowd. At least this performance is better than the one in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III - but anything is better than that.
- The direction. The presentation by Robert Lieberman isn't totally terrible. The film is shot well and has some touches of style - including a blue tint during the grieving scenes and having the happier moments be more colorful and saturated. But it's pretty bland besides a couple of scenes. When the police find Ben's body, it shot effectively. The torture scenes get somewhat tense as well. But other than that, Lieberman's direction is very basic, bland, and doesn't enhance the screenplay much at all. The time shifts in the first act aren't necessary, but at least they weren't confusing. The last two acts have really odd pacing at times. Lieberman also tries hard to make us feel for the situation by juxtaposing Elise's memory of giving birth to her son with finding out her son was found dead, with both scenes of her crying for obviously different reasons. This would be powerful if the script had allowed us to really get to know Elise's character. In some ways, it seems Lieberman is more focused on getting to the part of the film where the Landrys torture their son's murderer, since those scenes are shot the best and with the most confidence. Otherwise, it's a visually unremarkable film that doesn't distract or enhance the narrative much in any way.
- The last two acts. While the first act does a decent job setting up what's to come, the next two acts do a really lazy job taking the narrative to its conclusion. The middle act is pretty much the couple gearing up to kidnap Kozlowski so they can torture him. While this is the natural middle portion for this type of film, the way its done and presented is pretty laughable. The middle act is the act of convenience, as everything that occurs happens way too easily and without any sense of logic whatsoever. Since Craig is a doctor [a plot point that never comes to light in the first act], he steals drugs from the hospital he wants at. Since Elise is a real estate agent [a plot point that's briefly mentioned in the first act], she knows an abandoned place where they could hide the body. Now Craig and Elise decide to kidnap Kozlowski during his prison transfer by drugging the officer taking him there. How do they plan on doing this? By drugging the officer's coffee of course! It's ike they knew that this officer would stop for a cup of coffee at a store and allow Elise to add some toxins into the drink. They must be freakin' psychic! And how did this young couple know that once they stole the truck that had Kozlowski inside, their fingerprints would never be checked when they accidentally crash the vehicle? Someone must have called Miss Cleo! Seriously, everything happens way too easily because it's the only way the film could continue to the next plot point. It's not believable and comes across as cartoonish and amateurish.
As for the final act, it's just a young couple torturing this man to let go of some of their anger and grief for what he did to them. The couple seems to get off on it since they barely feel bad for doing this, even if the man is a scumbag. Hell, they have sex while the guy is screaming for help downstairs. They even see their son watching them with a smile as they physically decimate this creep.
This portion is supposed to bring up a theme of morality - making the couple question whether they're doing the right thing or not to this person. Sure they're angry about the sentencing, but does torturing and killing this man make things better for everyone involved? It might feel good temporarily, but it won't bring the son back and it could cost them their lives and careers for trying to be above the law. Craig questions their actions once in a blue moon to his wife, who seems more eager in the torturing. But it's never really explored and feels that it's in there because it's the question that has to be in a film like this. So the torture seems gratuitous rather than an extension of this morality theme because it's never developed at all. Do these characters understand what they're doing is wrong? I was never sure because they went right back into torturing the guy again.
And that's the main issue with THE TORTURED - the characters don't feel like people you can sympathize with. The fact that we learn about their occupations in the second act, when it's most convenient to know about what they do, proves that the story is not about knowing who these people are and why we should care about the extreme lengths they take in order to get vengeance for their dead son. I know nothing about their relationship with their son, although they seemed to be happy family. Elise and Craig blame each other briefly for Ben's death, but don't dwell on it and blame the authorities for not getting justice for them instead. Craig is on a 6-month break from his medical job, I'm guessing due to his son's death, but it's never said why. It's like watching the punchline without seeing the joke first. I don't care about these protagonists because the film never gives me the chance to.
Same goes with Kozlowski, who is a caricature of a serial killer. We know he's a child predator. We know he likes to dress up like a contestant from Toddlers & Tiaras. And he likes music. That's all I know and it's not enough. Even the cops in the film are one-dimensional. This script really needed another edit for some severe character development for the main characters. It made the viewing experience kind of dull and ineffective. It also made the twist sort of ridiculous as well because it was predictable and made Craig and Elise look like idiots for not seeing it sooner. Then again, it's not like I should care because the film doesn't want me to. What wasted potential for something decent.
THE FINAL HOWL
I really wanted to like THE TORTURED. It has decent actors. It has a premise and themes that could be really interesting if done right. And it was produced by those behind the SAW films - a franchise I don't hate as much as others. But THE TORTURED doesn't really have much to offer to any audience. Bland characters. A theme that never takes off. Generic direction. Plot points that feel forced rather than natural. If it weren't for a certain performance, decently shot tortured scenes, and a promising opening act, THE TORTURED would be more of a failure than it actually is. It's a shame because this could have been something really good. Instead, I think the only ones who will be tortured by this film are the people watching it. Pretty disappointed by this one big time.