Friday, October 11, 2013

Tormented (in the hypothetical 3rd dimension)

After a little boy kills a wounded rabbit as an act of mercy, he and his mute, older sister are drawn into some weird nightmare world, possibly of their own making. What proceeds is, I think, maybe the first bunny themed horror movie I've ever seen.

As a noted hater of Shimizu Takashi's Ju-on: The Grude and his contemptable American remake, I'm happy to report that I finally enjoyed one of his movies. Tormented has some of the same flaws as those other movies (a distinct lack of subtlety, silly ideas treated as scary, some obnoxiously over-the-top filmic pyrotechnics) but enough cool stuff going on to mitigate.

First and foremost, this is one of the best looking horror movies I've seen in ages. Shot in 3D by the great Christopher Doyle, Tormented is a real eye-popper, flat-out one of the most visually impressive uses of 3D I've seen. Shimizu and Doyle find all sorts crazy images that look great in 3D, not least of all their brilliant use of an elaborate childrens' pop-up book. Doyle is obviously a master visual craftsman, and he actually seems to understand the visual possibilities of the much-maligned medium. Many shots in the film are packed with multiple visual planes of detail, giving a sort of "deep focus" effect where you can actually focus on different depths in the frame.

I also appreciated that the film was willing to just go for it in the weirdness department. The film is almost exclusively based around silly, unscary ideas, but Shimizu throws caution (and logic and quality control) to the wind and unashamedly makes an incredibly dumb but dead serious film. So you get lots and lots of horror scenes based on a person in an adorable but anthropmorphic rabbit suit, two scenes involving a stuffed bunny coming out of a movie screen for no reason, a quaint fairgrounds type place that I guess is supposed to be sinister, and some of the most stunningly asisine plot twists ever. But unlike The Grudge this stupidness is all part of the fun. Instead of a tedious slog through a bunch of rote boo-scares, this is more like a surreal and trippy galavant through a bunch of ridiculous but awesome imagery.

I don't have much faith in Shimizu as a story teller, but Tormented suggests that I slept on him as a visual stylist and an entertainer. I only watched this because it was one of the few 3D horror movies Netflix was streaming, but now I'd be on board with watching something else of Shimizu's.

Rating: B

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