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April 08, 2013

Tormented

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Rabitto Hora 3D
Takashi Shimizu - 2011
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

While one can probably enjoy Tormented without seeing Takashi Shimizu's previous excursion into 3D, Shock Labyrinth, the two films are connected in several ways that I would advise seeing the earlier film first, if possible. This connection is made clear in an audacious use of self-reference. A young woman, Kiriko, and her younger brother, Daigo, go to the movies. Not just any movie, but Shock Labyrinth. One of the recurring motifs in that film involves a stuffed toy rabbit. While watching the movie, in 3D of course, the toy rabbit flies out of the screen and into the hands of Daigo. During this scene, Shimizu gets to employ a terrific sight gag involving the "realism" of 3D movies, while the toy rabbit continues as a significant part of Tormented.

Like Shock Labyrinth, Shimizu again explores an interweaving of dreams, nightmares and memories. The story is told as a modern day fairy tale about a mute librarian who witnesses her young brother killing a rabbit with a large stone. Was the killing an act of mercy or pure sadism. The sister and brother live with their father, indifferent to them, involved in creating a pop-up book version of The Little Mermaid. Simultaneously, this film refers to the violence found in classic fairy tales and children's stories, as well as the artistic recreation of three dimensional illusions. One might also recall the delight some young children have regarding telling stories involving death and gore, trying to gross each other out.

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In other ways, Tormented would be a reworking of narrative and visual elements in Shock Labyrinth. There is the hospital, where the medical staff appears as physically broken as the patients. There is also a return of that spiral staircase, similar use of color. Working with legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle, there is more play here in the use of film grain and color. A nightmare sequence at an amusement part Merry-Go-Round indicates familiarity with Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train with the shots of the horses' heads.

There may be some disappointment from those expecting the same kind of shocks presented in Ju-on or even the American The Grudge. Not that Tormented is entirely bloodless, but the emphasis is on psychological horror. What I liked was the shifting narratives, from the points of view of Kiriko and her father. Again I refer to Alfred Hitchcock, who played with the notion that the audience trusts what they are seeing, where the long flashback from the point of view of Marlene Dietrich in Stage Fright turns out to be a lie. Shimizu does Hitchcock better so that nothing seen by the film viewer is to be trusted as truthful. Much of Tormented is visually told from a child's point of view, with one wonderful shot of the amusement park illuminated during the early evening, conveying a sense of wonderment, just prior to the inescapable nightmares to come.

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Posted by peter at April 8, 2013 08:36 AM