The Tortured Leaves Audience Past Pain Threshold

Can someone lobby Obama to close this cinematic black site down?

The Tortured, unconvincingly written by Marek Posival and awkwardly directed by Robert Lieberman, is a nasty piece of work that’s been hanging around for two years looking for an audience. It’s a revolting horror film that wastes the talents and good looks of Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe in favor of severed penises and other violent atrocities performed on a kitchen table. Be forewarned: it’s not for the demure or easily shocked.

In a formidable and well-staged opening sequence, a six-year-old boy is kidnapped from the peaceful safety of his own front yard, and brutally abused by a wacko pervert in a dark basement surrounded by stuffed monkeys, caged animals and children’s toys. When the child is found murdered and dismembered, the distraught parents have a psychological need to blame someone, but after the cops find numerous remains buried in the killer’s back yard and the jury gives the defendant an easy 25-year plea bargain, the boy’s parents seek a level of justice betrayed by the court by taking the law into their own hands. Embarking on a daring plan to highjack the transport van taking the killer to prison and then give the monster a dose of his own medicine by carrying out their own death penalty, the movie turns from tense to preposterous. The upper middle-class married couple, played by Metcalfe and Christensen, is too beautiful and camera-ready to be believable as grizzled, emotionally destroyed shadows of their former selves. The husband is a doctor, so he knows all about the devastating effects of injectable poisons. All the viewer can do is squirm as they burn their victim with lighted cigarettes, soldering irons and boiling water, slice him open alive with knives, jam hypodermic needles into his organs, and indulge in other horrors too diabolical to describe. The savage and relentless torture eventually overwhelms any sympathy the couple might get from the battered audience, and the continuing horror endured by the chained and blood-soaked captive finally seems pointless. What begins as a valid thriller ends with a contrived ending that is supposed to leave you stupefied (Is it possible they tortured the wrong man?) but will only leave you giggling because you’ll figure out the trick long before the naïve characters do. There is nerve-wracked tension in the inner struggle as their decisions affect their marriage and sense of morality, and the performances are compelling—by the two leads, who deserve better roles, and by the torture victim, although mostly all he is required to do is scream. The audience screams too, although not many will survive The Tortured with their eyes wide open.

rreed@observer.com

THE TORTURED

Running Time 79 minutes

Written by Marek Posival

Directed by Robert Lieberman

Starring Erika Christensen, Jesse Metcalfe and Bill Lippincott

1/4