Blu-ray Review: Tormented (2011)

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Writer-director Takashi Shimizu’s Tormented first hit Japanese theaters in the fall of 2011. Shimizu is best known to U.S. film fans as the creative force behind The Grudge and The Grudge 2 (remakes of his own Japanese originals). Tormented was shot in 3D by cinematographer Christopher Doyle, his first work in the format. Well Go USA Home Entertainment has recently release the film on Blu-ray on a 2D/3D hybrid disc.

Tormented easily has enough plot for a solid Twilight Zone episode, but even at a brisk 83 minutes it feels a little thin for a feature film. A young woman named Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima) works at a school attended by her much younger half-brother, Daigo (Takeru Shibuya). Kiriko and Daigo live with their father, Kohei (Teruyuki Kagawa). Kohei illustrates children’s pop-up books. After Daigo puts a dying rabbit out of its misery, he’s haunted by the improvised euthanization. His recurring nightmares feature someone wearing a giant rabbit costume, frequently set in an amusement park.

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If that’s not already weird enough, things get really strange when we learn about Kyoko, Kohei’s late second wife and mother of Daigo. Further discussion would spoil a pretty darn good twist that arrives a little too early in the movie. Once we know the full extent of what haunts this family, Shimizu’s scenario has nowhere to go. Think of an M. Night Shyamalan movie that shoots its wad two-thirds of the way through. If the movie is built around a twist, no matter how effective, anything that happens after the mystery is solved is liable to feel like dead weight. That’s the central problem with Tormented, but the nightmares and giant bunny imagery are intermittently unnerving at the very least.

The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer looks passably okay on Well Go’s Blu-ray but it suffers a bit from a bland, low contrast look. Full disclosure, I didn’t have a chance to screen this one in 3D so my reaction is based strictly on the 2D presentation. Sharpness is occasionally impressive, such as during outdoor scenes. But much of the darker, indoor material is noticeably less distinct. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is quite solid, with well-placed creepy sound effects. The soundtrack goes a long way towards making Tormented as scary as it is (which isn’t all that intensely scary to begin with), so I was grateful to hear some nice directionality in this mix.

Don’t look to this bare bones release for extras. If it can be found at a reasonable price, fans of Takashi Shimizu should probably add Tormented to their collection. While not a great movie, there are enough spooky moments here to justify it for those with a taste for this type of atmospheric horror.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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