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  • TBC
  • 2009
  • 91 mins

Tormented

Tormented

Synopsis

Sharp comedy and blunt violence make awkward but effective classmates in director Jon Wright's cheap and cheerful high-school horror

About

You can't judge a film by its title sequence - if you could, Watchmen would be hailed as a work of genius - but they can be a decent indication of how much the filmmakers care about what's to come, particularly when imagination is more plentiful than budget. Scrawled on a toilet door in compass point, lippy and Tippex alongside dyslexic obscenities and distended genitalia, Tormented's credits announce a film that's earthy, filthy, funny and direct. Unlike Watchmen, what follows fulfils these scratchy promises with aplomb.

A cut-price, Carry On-ish Carrie with less menstrual anguish and dress-up montages, Tormented depicts school as screaming bloody hell for most of the pupils. Fatties, fitties, goths, jocks, prefects - even the staff - are locked in an unholy and unguessable Darwinian battle for precedence, where survival means keeping your head down or, more likely, kicking downwards.

At the funeral of poor Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean), a tubby Norman-no-mates who topped himself because of bullying, we meet the various factions. Headgirl Justine (Tuppence Middleton), the "Princess Diana of this dump", is a good-natured goody-two-shoes giving a less-than-heartfelt eulogy for a boy she barely remembers. Outside, Patrick Bateman-in-the-making Bradley (Alex Pettyfer) and his bitchy crew (including, appropriately enough, 'Skins' stars April Pearson and Larissa Wilson) plan a party, while Nasser (James Floyd) and the emo kids ponder death with guy-linered glee. We also meet the smarmy headmaster (Peter Amory) and brutal games teacher (Geoff Bell) who seem to be taking their cues from If.... and / Kes respectively. In short, this has the feel of a genuine community; the secondary characters as memorably inked in as the stick figures on that toilet door.

As Justine falls for Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas), a twinkly eyed charmer from Bradley's gang, it's not just the class caste system that gets in the way of their rather sweet courtship. Someone's sending threatening, if scatalogically unsophisticated, texts from Darren's phone and then offing his former antagonists in imaginative, if inexpensive-looking, ways.

Like the weedy kid who forgets his PE kit and has to do gym in his pants, Tormented is going to get an absolute thumping from the critics. The performances run the full gamut from star-making (Middleton, Leonidis) to school-play standard (everyone else), the sex scenes are racy to the point of wrongness, and one unlucky punter gets his bits bitten off - pretty ripe for a 15 certificate.

But it's also genuinely funny (the goth kids listen to the band Crying While Wanking, as the good girls tut along to Atonement) punchy and, in its own way, convincing. Almost every character has the capacity to be nice or an absolute unrepentant little so-and-so, and the filmmakers nail the mangled cadences of teen-speak, however trashily.

Rough and ready it may be, but the uneasy mixture of comedy and cruelty means the audience often finds themselves laughing when they know they shouldn't - like the bullies - and guessing who, if anyone, will be left alive right up until the end credits.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Larissa Wilson, Tuppence Middleton, Geoff Bell, James Floyd, Calvin Dean, Georgia King, Alex Pettyfer, April Pearson, Peter Amory, Dimitri Leonidas
  • Director: Jon Geoff
  • Screen Writer: Stephen Prentice
  • Producer: Tracy Brimm, Kate Myers, Cavan Ash, Arvind Ethan David
  • Photographer: Trevor Forrest
  • Composer: Paul Hartnoll

In a nutshell

A for effort, C for artistry, this wayward teen of a movie is confusing, amusing and scary - a bit like school itself.

by Matt Glasby

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