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Tormented (2011)

Well Go USA
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/2/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/5/2013

In case you aren't familiar with it, the auteur theory states that a director is the "author" of a movie and that the film reflects their personal vision. Whether or not you buy into this idea, it's undeniable that many directors have an instantly recognizable style or tackle specific themes again and again in their films. It could be argued that directors use their work in order to exorcise their own demons and to share a personal side of themselves with us. Sometimes this is subtle, but at other times, it's right in our faces. Japanese director Takashi Shimizu first gained notoriety for his Ju-On films, which he then remade in America as The Grudge. He has continued working in Japan and apparently he's working through some sort of issues he has with rabbits. This fist came up in 2009's Shock Labyrinth. This now continues in his 2011 film Tormented (which is known in Japan as Rabbit Horror).

As Tormented opens, we see young Daido (Takeru Syibuya) kill a rabbit at his school. His much older sister, Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima), arrives just in time to see the event. Kiriko is a mute, but through her narration, we learn that Daigo is her half-brother. They live with their father (Teruyuki Kagawa), a children's book illustrator who mostly keeps to himself. So, Kiriko takes care of Daigo. Following the event with the rabbit and after going to see Shock Labyrinth, Daigo begins to have dreams where a giant rabbit (a person in a suit) takes him to an amusement park (the one from Shock Labyrinth). As these visions begin to intrude on reality, Kiriko begins to have them as well. What appear to be simple nightmare or at worst, bizarre hallucinations, begin to trigger deeply-hidden memories to Kiriko and she slowly starts to realize that truth about Daigo's odd behavior and the true meaning of the rabbits.

When you look back on Ju-On (or The Grudge), you most likely remember things like the creepy little boy or the long-haired woman. It's easy to forget that Shimizu loves to distort time and space in his movies. Acting as a Japanese horror version of Quentin Tarantino, Shimizu makes films where the action can suddenly spring forward ten years and blend this with the present. Shock Labyrinth showed that Shimizu was still in touch with this style, as it featured characters who entered a hospital which was transformed into an amusement park haunted house attraction where events from the past and present were occurring simultaneously. Shimizu does something similar in Tormented, as a flashback sequence begins very unexpectedly due to the fact that Kiriko is observing these events from the past along with the audience. Having a character suddenly walk into something which happened years ago -- to that character! -- can be a jarring experience.

Shimizu also gets a lot of mileage out of bizarre imagery here. To say that Tormented is a weird movie would be an understatement. Daido and eventually Kiriko encounter a huge rabbit which looks like the Easter Bunny from your local mall. This rabbit appears at the school, in their house, and in their dreams, where it takes them to the amusement park which was seen in Shock Labyrinth. The whole rabbit thing is not only weird, but it comes off as a bit silly at times. After all, it's just a big bunny suit. However, look closely and you'll see some creepy CG effects with the rabbit's eyes and the zipper on the front of the suit is used to good effect. Shimizu is able to make the amusement park both enchanting and foreboding. There is nice use of an attic space in Kiriko's house where odd things appear.

Tormented is definitely an example of style over substance. Only the most jaded or ignorant viewer won't be taken in by some of the visuals here, and Shimizu shows a keen eye, as we gets things like the recurrent use of spirals. However, the movie does suffer some in the story department. When the movie reaches the ending, you'll have pieced together most of the story, as it is a pretty straight-forward ghost and revenge tale which is not all that different from Ju-On. However, Shimizu has opted to tell the story in a non-linear manner and he doesn't give pertinent details until after the half-way point. This results in a movie which will frustrate many viewers. Those who stick around for the entire film will find that it doesn't work as a whole, but it does offer some images which are unforgettable.

Tormented hops onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Well Go USA. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. As with some other recent Asian entries, the picture here leans more towards a video look rather than a film look at times. However, the image is crisp and the colors look good. The image is a bit dark at times, but the action is always visible. The level of detail is good, as is the depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The English subtitles are easy to read. The stereo effects are good, as they show good separation. The surround sound effects really kick in during the hallucination sequences. The effects aren't overly detailed, but they do separate themselves from the front channels. The subwoofer effects also stand out during the shock sequences. The Blu-ray Disc also contains the 3D version of the film which has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and offers a MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22/11 Mbps. This transfer definitely has pros and cons. On the pro side, the depth is pretty good in some shots. The highlight comes during Daigo's first visit to the amusement park. It begins to rain and raindrops appear to be hanging in midair between us and the screen. This effect is very cool and shows what home 3D can do. Unfortunately, the darker scenes look flat and show no more depth than the 2D version. Also, the image is blurry and muddy at times, and for me, I was seeing double with the subtitles. The audio track is the same as the 2D version.

The lone extra on the Tormented Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.