When it comes to horror, there’s an influential school of thought subscribing to the idea that less is generally more. A flash of face, a trace of tail – enough to startle the audience, but not so much as to fully unveil the true nature of the terror the protagonists face. Certainly, revealing too much has been the downfall of many a film, and, indeed, it proves to be the prime fault of The Torment; a small, classy British horror which is strong on atmosphere but is let down by some silly FX and a failure to deliver with regard to actual scares.
The (admittedly sparse) plot follows an amiable London couple who find themselves, late one night, providing sanctuary for a recently-cuckolded friend. However, they soon learn that the real reason he fled his abode is far more sinister: he’s being haunted by mysterious forces, which, it becomes apparent, have followed him here.
The set-up isn’t terrifically original and the film draws inspiration from a number of sources – from classics of the genre (The Haunting) to more recent releases ([REC] and Paranormal Activity, most obviously). This extends to the film’s direction, which verges occasionally into the faux-documentary format adopted by many horror titles following the success of The Blair Witch Project. Nonetheless, with a convincing cast, stylish camerawork and clever pacing, The Torment racks up a considerable –sometimes near-unbearable – level of tension. However, the film rarely capitalises on this; shocks and scares are surprisingly scarce, and when they do manifest this is usually in the form of a silly set-piece – the scene where a character uses a glass of water and a copy of the Guardian as a DIY Ouija board – or absurd monsters which more closely resemble Spaceballs’ Pizza the Hutt than anything remotely intimidating.
In summary, The Torment is a respectable independent offering which expertly builds and maintains an effective sense of fear, menace and confusion, but ultimately fails to terrify. The result is a chronic case of anticlimax, something which is ultimately reflected in the film’s abrupt, unsatisfying conclusion.