Torment is a gripping psychological thriller about a suburban family who retreat to their country cottage for a relaxing family holiday. Their lives are thrown into chaos by a family of malevolent, masked squatters who are hell-bent on adding a new member to their demented clan, Cory and Sarah’s little boy, Liam.
Cory and his new wife Sarah seem to have it all; money, looks, and a beautiful little boy. But appearances are often deceptive and not everything is as rosy-looking as it appears to the outside world. Liam is having a hard time accepting his “new Mom” and despite Sarah’s best efforts, their relationship is tense to say the least.
On the surface, Torment is about staring the unwavering inevitability of death in the face. For both Cory and Sarah, the arrival of Mr. Mouse and his “family” represent a return to a reality neither are ready or equipped for. It is about breaking the fragile illusions of safety, security, connection and belonging. Both Cory and Sarah will have to dig deep to find their way back.
The film also examines the concept of family and the fragility of relationships within that family. In a certain way, Torment is the materialisation of that dark desire that we all felt at some point in our childhood when we “hated” our parents. As a child, images of the boogie man coming after us in the dark sent us scrambling to the safety of our beds. Since the beginning of time, human beings have escaped into the fragile comforts that we call home. It kept us safe from hungry carnivores, the cold, and each other, giving us a place to free the mind for the next day’s excursion into danger. For many adults, the scariest thing that could happen would be for an evil entity to break through the magical walls that separate us from the dangers lurking outside.
Mr. Mouse’s arrival represents the truest, most primal drive of every living being on the planet…survival. He is pure reptilian brain, free of the escapist tendencies of the modern day human consciousness and the unbearable lightness of being.
The inevitability of death is far too “real” for most of us to accept, especially when we could just as easily put it off for another time. This is the controlling idea that will drive the creative on Torment. Terence Young’s “Wait until Dark” for which Audrey Hepburn was nominated for an Academy Award, Xavier Palud and David Moreau’s “Them” and Alexander Aja’s French genre classic “Haute Tension” have all shared these primal themes. Liam’s abduction brings the tension to its rising point and acts as a transition from the tense, meticulously framed wide tableaus of the film’s first act to an increasingly jarring and shallow focused second and third act. The camera will begin by creeping slowly and smoothly in, out and around our protagonists. These mechanically aided motion stabilizers will only return after Mr. Mouse’s arrival to give us a fleeting glimpse of the safety and security that is quickly slipping away.
As with all of my previous work in this genre, sound will play a pivotal role in driving the emotion of the audience. On this film, I wish to take a more minimal approach, allowing the silence to act as the primary builder of tension. My desire is to keep the film free of a traditional musical score. Mr. Mouse, Little Rabbit, and The Pig Lady as they are affectionately known, will bear the fruits of meticulous attention to detail in production design. Another illusion is at play with the childlike innocence of Liam’s beloved stuffed animal collection. Once they represented characters from a joyous, whimsical world of childhood imagination only to return as disembodied symbols of darkness and evil.