Its title leaves little doubt of the content; can Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe bring any brains to this Blu-Ray release? Mark Lee finds out.
The loss of a child at the hands of a repulsive and predatory killer. Shattered, grief-stricken parents. A desperate thirst for revenge, and natural justice. An audacious snatching of the killer from the inept hands of the authorities. And a depth of medical expertise that facilitates the most professional and effective level of pain-intensive torture.
One could be forgiven for believing that they are reading a review of the careful, impressively shot, but deeply depressing French horror drama, 7 Days, which employs virtually identical plot devices to plunge the viewer into a moral quagmire, driving forward the tangible misery in grimly inexorable fashion, and forcing you to question your value base, and the discomforting nature of your darkest instincts of vengeance. Yet whilst the two pictures share many grim characteristics, the differential in depth is stark.
The Tortured, with its direct genre-referencing moniker (From the Producers of Saw!, the cover screams, in case you were in any further doubt), eschews the opportunity to provoke the uncomfortable questions, rejects any notions of subtlety, and instead opts to drive home the misery of the situation using visual flashbacks, echoed memories of the happy times, and some unnecessary, unpleasant, and hideously overacted shots of the repulsive abuser screaming at his young victim. We don’t require any such material to loathe the perpetrator of the crime; the accumulation of such material, it seems, is necessary for us to believe that the grieving couple are capable of the prolonged and sadistic mental and psychological torture which they unleash upon their incarcerated subject. Yes, we realise that the parents are also The Tortured, but for The Tortured to become the Torturers with such easily activated zeal and exuberance feels beyond the realms of credibility.
It’s this inconsistency of character that perhaps sits most uncomfortably; an inconsistency that is engineered in an effort to soothe our consciences as we supposedly revel in the inventive nastiness inflicted before our eyes. Yet all we feel is duped. There are efforts to present the tortured consciences of the torturers, it’s true; yet the contrast between their soul-searching and their continued activities is too stark to be credibly believed.
As a final roll of the dice, The Tortured takes some confusing twists and turns, and a typically Saw-esque rolling crescendo of flashbacks attempts to stimulate a late showing of questioning, of moral querying; yet it’s too little, too late, and as The Tortured has brazenly demonstrated its true bloody crimson colours throughout by this stage, it all feels a little artificial, and token.
Metcalfe and Christensen work hard as the grieving, vengeance-hungry couple in Robert Lieberman’s torture piece, and there are some isolated moments of tension, such as the dramatic accident involving the prison van at the bridge. Yet any such efforts are undermined by blundering character inconsistencies, heavy-handed scripting (Metcalfe’s deranged rants as he prepares to torture his victim are ridiculous), a confused effort to insert some stalk and slash action into the later moments, and a frankly insane finale.
On one level, The Tortured, by its very title, makes no apology for its graphic and gruesome content. Yet with such unpleasant and challenging subject matter that involves the appalling loss of an innocent child, the missed opportunity to properly provoke uncomfortable questions about our need for revenge relegates the visually slick The Tortured to a position little above the other torture vehicles lining the shelves.
The Tortured arrives with its blood n’ guts via E1 Entertainment, and is encoded for Region B, for a European audience. The aspect ratio of 1.78:1 presents the movie in satisfying enough fashion, and the MPEG-4 AVC compression results in a clean and consistent transfer. I thought I may have noticed a small amount of anti-aliasing at one point during a shot of the sky, but this may well have been an intended technique of the filmmakers. 1080p ensures that definition is sharp and accurate, though the slightly heavy quality of the filming means that the reproduction of the visuals, whilst faithful, is unlikely to knock you out.
The Saw producers’ hands in this torture vehicle are clearly evident in much of the presentation. The colour filtering lends a similar look and feel to the horror franchise, with a blue hue granting a sense of bleak cold to much of the proceedings, and a green tinge throwing a murky cloud over some of the more shabby aspects of the picture. Such techniques are familiar and well worn, yet do prove successful in their primary atmospheric goal.
Despite the quality of the definition, the picture suffers somewhat during some of the darker scenes. The blacks are indeed solid and satisfyingly deep, yet the often during these moments it is practically impossible to pick out much in the way of detail. This is, once again, an unintended benefit (and may well have been intentional), given some of the depicted imagery, but it also proves rather frustrating.
The included English subtitles are well sized, well placed, and clear.
The file size of the movie itself is approximately 19Gb, with the extras bringing the total disc size up to the 23Gb mark.
Audio options are appropriate for a release of this standard, allowing you to choose between standard 2.0 stereo, and DTS-HD Master Audio for a lossless reproduction of the original soundtrack. The audio reproduction is clear, with well defined treble, and satisfying bass depth. I couldn’t detect any unwanted noise, colour, or hiss.
The extras are extremely thin on this Blu-Ray release, though bearing in mind the miserable and depressing subject matter, this is perhaps something of a blessing.
The Cast and Crew Interviews slot is incredibly short, running at a super slim 1 minute 34 seconds. The segment rattles through a series of responses from cast and crew regarding what they would do in the situation the stricken couple find themselves in.
A Behind the Scenes slot is a little more generous with time, allocating us a 10 minute 34 second slice of action, including director and cast interviews, plus a closer look at some of the special effects, including the impressive van crash.
Whilst both items are acceptable enough, I can’t say that we gain any great insight into this depressing movie.
Funnily enough, the first trailer on the disc is for 7 Days.
It benefits from a slick presentation and the odd moment of tension, but The Tortured panders too much to the instincts of the bloodthirsty, at the expense of any extended and intelligent exploration of the dynamics of the terrible situation the characters find themselves incarcerated within. The lightweight extras do little to add anything to the cause, and as such this bloody release makes for a disappointingly undemanding experience.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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