Look, I can appreciate a hallucinogenic fright-fest as well as the next person. All one need do is take a look at some of the horror films I’ve reviewed here and elsewhere to know that – even though I may not count the genre as my favorite – I cut horror flicks an awful lot of slack. I’d argue that all I require is that the film actually presents a story with an imaginative enough concept and vivid enough characters put through interesting enough steps that it keeps my interest. Now, that’s a pretty short order if you think about it, and, up until recently, the Japanese have done some genuinely great things in the field. I may not have liked them all, but, at the very least, I’ve appreciated what they’ve brought to the game.
But – seriously – what just happened?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Kiriko and Daigo – brother and sister – are a family in crisis. Born from separate mothers (who both died under mysterious circumstances), they’ve also lost their father to his work as a creator of children’s pop-up books. While he spends all day with his creations, they keep to themselves. To treat themselves, they took in a movie – a 3D one featuring a stuffed killer rabbit. To his surprise, that rabbit actually came out of the movie screen, and now Daigo has taken it home for himself.
Turns out that wasn’t such a good idea.
And it turns out that much of TORMENTED is tormented with one bad or clichéd idea after another, which is quite a surprise given that it springs from the fertile imagination of director Takashi Shimizu. Still, I’ve heard it said that Shimizu can be an acquired taste, so maybe this one just wasn’t to my liking. The striking visuals and drug-trip-inspired narrative (i.e. what’s real, what’s not real, etc.) can only force an audience to suspend its disbelief for so long. Eventually, a story has to come to its senses, but TORMENTED rather boldly but ineffectually strikes out into some rather peculiar territory. Suffice it to say, one should always question what one sees in a Shimizu picture because it may not exist in the very next frame.
I’ve no doubt someone else can make more sense from these images. Perhaps the problem is that they’re layered on too thickly and too consistently for too long a period. It’s just that I found it progressively difficult to care about any of the characters when I couldn’t figure out whether or not they were real (so far as the story was concerned) or were figments of someone else’s imagination. Flashbacks, dream sequences, and nightmares usually are the stuff of legendary cinema, but this time out I think someone forgot what the legend was supposed to be.
TORMENTED is produced by Dentsu, Epic Records, Fortissimo Films, Ogura Jimusyo Co., Phantom Film, and VAP. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Well Go USA. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds as sharp as any I’ve seen out of Japan, and no expense was spared in bringing this curiosity to cinematic life. For those who need it spelled out, this is a Japanese language film with English subtitles available. As is often the case with these imports, the disc is lacking any special feature to speak of … not a big deal because I seriously wasn’t all that interested in knowing much more about all of this bizarre story.
Not really RECOMMENDED. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. I’ve no doubt that a film like TORMENTED has an audience. I’m just not sure what that audience is or, for that matter, where they might reside. As a consequence, it’s really hard to give it an endorsement or even a modest ‘thumbs up.’ It’s a ghost story of sorts … just not a very good one. Still, so much of the film is steeped in a suitably creepy atmosphere, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s more to this that was simply lost in the translation. Monty Python showed us rabbits could kill, and now director Shimizu shows us they can drive you crazy.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA provided me with an advance DVD copy of TORMENTED 3D for the expressed purposes of completing this review.