Gaining a reputation for the dark, seedy underbelly of horror it provides, Stephen Biro’s (read our interview with him here) distribution company, Unearthed Films, pushes the envelope even further with its latest development. Launching the company’s new “Too Extreme for Mainstream” brand of horror is Adam Ford’s directorial debut, Torment, which saw a very limited release, leaving niche genre fans rife with anticipation. Of course, this excitement peaked my interest, and I placed my pre-order before the feature went back into the Disney vault (of horror), possibly never to be seen again. How was it, trudging through the murky waters of this vile perversion that promised to go where no one else dares? Much like the infamous American Guinea Pig series, this new abomination knows no bounds, hurdling clear over the line drawn by mainstream audiences.
Loosely inspired by infamous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, Torment begins in an unexpected way. After awaking from a night of perhaps purchased, but otherwise consensual sex, the film’s soon-to-be victim (newcomer Rikky Fiore) explores the apartment of his john, The Clown (newcomer Matteo De Liberato). This segment seems a bit slow, making us wait for the taboo material said to make this piece of extreme horror so controversial. However, as soon as the curious wanderer opens a door to a backroom, we are thrown across the threshold to the point of no return.
From Producer Domiziano Cristopharo (read our interview with him here) – who also brought us American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice (read our review here) – a new kind of insanity is unleashed. Quickly unraveling into a tale that, yet again, redefines the horror phrase “torture porn,” Torment offers groans, grunts and moans in the place of dialogue, while dragging the viewer through nonstop, graphically-depicted violence and drug use that is not for the faint of heart. As The Clown’s male escort stumbles upon a brutalized man being held captivate, he is knocked unconscious, only to wake to see his future fate as his now captor finishes his heinous work on the victim he will soon replace.
While it may come as a relief to some and a disappointment to others, a couple of the scenes come off as fake and over the top. However, there are plenty of more realistic moments of unflinching depravity that leaves little to the imagination as Ford and Company bring rookie screenwriter Likov Mitoloskih’s script to life. If you’re looking for comfort and a break in tension, there is none in sight for your soon-to-be scarred eyes. Between some wildly creative camerawork, crazy use of practical effects, and ballsy and brave performances from an amateur cast, small shortcomings are easily overshadowed by shocking exploitation.
Among all the torture, what little there is in plot progression is attributed to The Clown and his victim. Making his onscreen debut as the sadistic murderer, De Liberato channels his inner Gacy… which may have been enough to bring out Fiore’s inner victim as he transforms into a ball of mush. Surprisingly, we see more sides to this demented clown as he sways between torturer, misguided caregiver and drug addict, driven by a muddled mess of madness. Complimenting De Liberato’s performance, Fiore portrays varying levels of emotional trauma while his character is stripped of every ounce of humanity in unthinkable ways. This is done in such a way that you can see the transformation of shock and horror to a deterioration from which there is no coming back.
Throwing all boundaries of traditional horror filmmaking aside, Torment is far from your Friday night, fright night, popcorn flick thrown onto your TV screen for kicks. Nearly every line genre films don’t dare to cross is targeted for obliteration in Torment, guaranteeing that this feature will never see the light of day through mainstream retailers or streaming services. Edging into an American Guinea Pig level of extreme, there is no doubt that this torturous roller coaster ride of exploitation earns its place in the “Too Extreme for Mainstream” category of Unearthed Films’ twisted horror catalog. With limited copies in stock through Unearthed Films, Grindhouse Video and DiabolikDVD, extreme horror fanatics are advised to act now… or be at the mercy of the soul-sucking scalpers already looking to capitalize on this limited opportunity.