FILM REVIEW: Tormented

15 • 91 mins • 22 May

Director: Jon Wright

Cast: Tuppence Middleton, Dimitri Leonidas, Alex Pettyfer, April Pearson, Calvin Dean

Rating:

“A sexy, scary high school horror movie that smells like teen spirit…” screams the press notes; smells like a straight-to-DVD stinker to us. Yet from the cool credits scrawled on school desks, via the comedy emo chorus declaring “death is so erogenous” to the inventive murder-by-stationery kills, this is a slick, funny slasher; a British Heathers with extra beheadings.

Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean) is dead. An overweight, asthmatic geek, in love with snooty beauty head girl Justine (newcomer Tuppence Middleton – one to watch) he was the victim of relentless bullying, which drove him to suicide. But now the A-group are getting threatening text messages from Darren’s phone and there’s a wheezing zombie ghost stalking the corridors…

This is the first feature for director Jon Wright, who co-wrote the fairly dreadful Hammer reboot Beyond The Rave, and it’s an impressive debut. He’s given a major boost by Stephen Prentice’s snappy script and certain standout performances from a young cast of mostly TV actors. In the tradition of Halloween and Friday The 13th there’s plenty of shagging (never without a condom, mind) but Skins-style dialogue and an emphasis on modern tech emphasis keep the movie fresh and teen focused. There are some great gags here, not least the gigglesome post-credits sequence that’s worth hanging around for, but Tormented has a serious side too, with harrowing phone footage of Darren’s ordeal highlighting nasty new forms of bullying.

There are problems: not all the cast are up to it, the second act is baggy and the end is tonally off. Leads Middleton and Dimitri Leonidas (as heartthrob Alexis), are so likeable and charismatic that the final showdown is unsatisfying, and Darren doesn’t make a very menacing baddie. There are some issues, too, with internal logic over exactly what Darren is and what he can and can’t do.

But at the end of the day these are small things. Holes aside, this is a smart, competent horror-com that’s easily a match for its US counterparts. So, gold stars for effort for promising students Wright, Prentice, Middleton and Leonidas – we can’t wait to see what you’ll hand in next.

Rosie Fletcher