The Torment (2010)

The Torment—also known as The Posession of David O’Reilly—is the brainchild of Brighton-born author Andrew Cull, who co-directed it with Steve Isles. We enjoyed it on Amazon Prime.

One of the great pleasures of this blog is finding an overlooked gem of a film. It doesn’t have to be Citizen Kane; it just has to be a nice tight package with good pacing, good acting, good story and good production. I’m ten years late in discovering The Torment, but it definitely fits the bill.

Late at night, heartbroken David (played by Giles Alderson) turns up at the door of his old friends, played by Nicholas Shaw and Zoe Richards. It turns out he needs a place to stay because his girlfriend cheated on him. They bring him in, but it soon becomes clear he’s got demons in tow.

At the heart of the film, we have the enduring question of whether the demons are actually real. For his own part, David is convinced they are; he even tries to keep them at bay by sprinkling salt in a doorway, as per tradition. However, there’s lingering uncertainty about his mental state, and his friends disagree on how to treat him.

Many films invite you to wonder if horrors are real or imagined, and (to be frank) it’s an approach I rarely enjoy. I normally prefer a straight-up premise, where something supernatural literally and unambiguously happens to the hero. However, despite that, I really enjoyed The Torment. We see enough from David’s point of view for the film to function as a red-blooded horror, even when we aren’t convinced of his sanity. The monsters are used sparingly, but effective nonetheless.

The film does great work with light and shadow, and the visuals are combined with effective use of sound and first-rate performances. All three actors are very good, but “man of the match” surely goes to Alderson. “You think to yourself, were those noises there before—I just didn’t notice them? Were the shadows as thick as that?” It’s a wonderful performance, underpinned by solid writing.

As a caveat, the ending will leave a number of viewers confused and wanting more closure. It didn’t bother me, and I liked how the film left me with some lingering questions. It’s a mark of the film’s quality that it gets away with this; if it wasn’t such a competent production, you might wonder (unfairly) if the writer was hiding muddled thinking behind an open-seeming ending. Instead, I found it pleasingly ambiguous.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this film. Not everyone agrees, but I honestly think it’s grossly underrated. I’d say The Torment is definitely worth a Prime rental, and I’ve already ordered the DVD for my bookshelf. Check it out and see if you agree!

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