31 Days of Horror: Day 8
Tormented (also known as Berkshire County) is a 2015 Canadian home invasion film by first time filmmaker Audrey Cummings, surrounding a high school teen babysitting two children on Halloween night. After putting the kids to bed, the vulnerable babysitter is visited by a trick-r-treating boy in a pig mask, accompanied by two pig-masked adults with very sinister intentions.
Cummings makes a solid directorial debut with Tormented. It’s well shot, makes great use of the film’s primary setting (the mazelike mansion, which becomes a character itself), and is genuinely scary even with few deaths and very little gore. The cinematography is superb, with some truly gorgeous shots and terrifying imagery that really elevates this low budget film. Although familiar, the masks used in the film are quite menacing, and the film’s score does a great job of building up tension.
The movie starts slow, spending the first act breaking down Kylie, the film’s central protagonist. Even before the horrific events of the evening unfold, Kylie has already had one of the worst days of her life. She’s been taken advantage of, slut shamed, shunned, ridiculed, and emotionally abandoned. The film spends a significant amount of time showing us how weak and vulnerable Kylie is, ostensibly to make her victim turned bad ass character arc pack more of an emotional punch.
As Kylie, actress Alysa King shines, giving real depth and personality to her character. However, Tormented works better as a straightforward “terrorize the innocent babysitter” film than a deeper “broken girl finding inner strength” psychological thriller.
Once we get to the real “meat” of the story and the effectively terrifying trio of masked piggies come a knocking on the door, the action and horror ramp up considerably. The rest of the film is well paced and fraught with tension.
This is an effectively creepy and well-made home invasion movie. Unfortunately, it suffers from being so reminiscent of superior films like The Strangers and You’re Next, in a fairly saturated subgenre. When taken entirely on its own merits, there’s enough good stuff here to satiate the typical stalk-and-slash horror fan. More ardent fans of the genre may, however, find the formulaic plot and derivative genre elements (babysitter alone on Halloween night, trapped in a house in the middle of nowhere, stalked by home invaders clad in creepy masks) too tiresome to fully enjoy this film.
There’s no apparent motive for the sadistic actions of the murderous trio, no explanation for major plot points, and no rhyme or reason for much of anything that happens. There are plenty of subtle references that tease of a deeper meaning, but the film never really pays off on any of those interesting setups. If you’re a person who needs a little depth to your horror, this may not be the movie for you. If, on the other hand, you’re just along for the ride and in for a little mindless mayhem, this is a considerably fun watch.
Tormented is a simple, yet effective home invasion horror film. Even without much in the way of creative kills or gore, this film manages to be tense and terrifying. Taken on its own merits, this is a solid entry into the subgenre.