Release Date: June 10, 2014
Director: Jordan Barker
MPAA Rating: NR
“When one has not had a good father, one must create one.”
Jordan Barker’s Torment opens with this Friedrich Nietzsche quote. It’s a quote that can inform the viewer’s expectations of what they are about to witness. You can pretty much expect something heavy if the film is going to open with a Nietzsche quote. Over the course of the next eighty minutes you will feel the weight of that quote and be introduced to a new mythos in the process.
Cory and Sarah Morgan are off to the country with Cory’s seven year old son. Cory has remarried, his wife passed away, and wants to use this time to bring the family together especially Sarah and Liam. Liam is struggling with his father remarrying and often finds himself at odds with him. Upon arriving at their country home they discover someone has been living there while they were away. After speaking with the Sheriff they assume the intruders have moved on now that they are back. That evening they discover just how wrong they were when Liam disappears and they find themselves facing a deranged family of killers.
Home invasion horror has become its own sub genre. After films like The Strangers, You’re Next or even Panic Room it’s a wonder anyone even feels safe in their own homes. The thought that someone entered your home without permission is violating. They slept in your bed, used your dishes, who knows what else they may have done while there. It’s unsettling to think about. Couple that with a child in danger and it becomes unbearable. Barker and screenwriters Michael Foster and Thomas Pound aim for that unsettling feeling but don’t quite get there.
The main problem lies in the how and why behind the killer’s motives. It’s already terrifying to think someone wants to kill you and take away your child. Outside of knowing they are likely nomadic it is never clearly established just why they do what they do, what started it or even for how long they’ve been at it. Having an air of mystery is fine but having some background goes a long way. There are elements that are conventions of the genre and unfortunately comparisons to more recent films like the aforementioned You’re Next can’t be helped. There are also moments that seem to defy logic like launching a flare in the dark while you are being stalked. Sure you can see but you can be seen too. Or to take a page from Roger Ebert and cite the Talking Killer Fallacy where the villains keeps talking and all he has to do is kill the hero but alas if that happened there would be no third act.
The acting is quite good with Katharine Isabelle coming to the forefront as Sarah. You can see her struggle to get close to Liam and really feel her strength when she must summon the courage to face off with her family’s assailants. Robin Dunne is good as Cory. Dunne is in an interesting role reversal where in many situations he is essentially the damsel in distress. Peter DaCunha does well for a young actor. Stephen McHattie makes a brief appearance as the local Sheriff.
Despite the flaws the film is still entertaining enough. There are some creepy and effective moments with the occasional jump scare for good measure. Strong lead characters and decent villains make this an okay origin story for this new family of cinematic killers.