By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 11, 2012 at 3:02PM
For most viewers, there's no way to take a look at that Twisted Pictures logo and feel at ease. Sure, it's intimidating all on it's own -- dark lowercase lettering separated by barbed-wire, inky shadows. But it's an entirely different sort of fear that emerges from the house that James Wan built. The company piggybacked off three "Saw" films before it decided to expand into other hoary, blood-soaked horror cheapies, most of them in the direct-to-video realm. With "Saw" over, however, Twisted Pictures still has a few leftovers from the torture porn trend, and one is 2010's "The Tortured," currently, finally receiving a VOD release.
Jesse Metcalfe and Erika Christensen play a perfect Movie Couple, one who laughs and loves together, the type of duo that hold each other just a bit longer than usual when one heads to work in the morning. They care for a young, ideal Movie Child, who of course has no idiosyncrasies and blindly loves Mommy and Daddy. Naturally, this scenario suggests this Movie Child is just BEGGING to be kidnapped and tortured by a Movie Psychopath, in this case a child-abducter played by Bill Moseley. Credit to the casting department, as Bill Moseley is by now a PhD in the field of Playing Movie Psychopaths.
While an arrest is made, it's not before we're to gather that the boy has been tortured and killed, though this is conveyed more through the bleak Twisted Pictures color palette and some generous slow motion than by any expository dialogue. A lenient judge suggests twenty five years, and our Movie Psychopath is off to Movie Prison. But Movie Couple seem to think the rules of Movie Prison (i.e. pedophile maniacs are dead in their cell fairly quickly) don't apply, so they come up with a Movie Plan: kidnap him on his way to prison, and torture him. Because Metcalfe plays a doctor, who basically claims he will bring his victim back to life willingly, this is Movie Torture.
And so with Movie Torture comes some mandatory hand-wringing of "What are we doing?" (not enough, really) followed by a weird, super-strong dedication to making a spectacle of this man's pain. Scenes of the couple arguing about the ethics of the situation (way past that, fellas) as the killer lays on the table, tied down, are followed by moments where they start to quip to him about how much this latest torture is going to hurt. The idea that two suburban nobodies will not only embrace torture but sarcastically joke and revel in it based on the popularity of torture porn is a good one. This movie is not interested in that, as our Movie Couple basically have zero traits. Also, Metcalfe and Christensen.
Let's call it the Kevin McCallister Condition. The lead character in "Home Alone" is just a child after all, but somehow we're willing to buy that he could jerry-rig an entire house as a death trap for two grown men. Of course, this is a once-in-a-lifetime conceit, the average person turned boobytrap expert, and not even the "Home Alone" movies could replicate the formula successfully again. Here we have two regular people who suddenly become experts on how to keep a killer tied to a chair, bleeding out and suffering, but still alive and able to communicate. It's not so much that they become Death Ninjas as much as the immorality seems to come naturally, punctuated by entirely unconvincing arguments about the fact that what they're doing is wrong. This after they caused a police vehicle crash on a major highway.
Twisted Pictures has fast become competitive with Platinum Dunes as far as production companies producing immoral, empty-headed garbage-y genre pictures. Unlike the bevy of sequels and remakes both studios produce, however, the original "The Tortured" bares a certain similarity to Platinum Dunes' stupid, corrosive serial killer thriller "The Horsemen." Both end similarly, with a sudden reach of pathos that inexplicably takes the film past a somewhat mandated Movie Runtime. Both are also examples from the shlockhouse studios that they are as good as producing excrutiatingly stupid "original" works as they are with simply repeating formula. [D-]
"The Tortured" is out now on VOD.