dir Jon Wright
scr Stephen Prentice
with Alex Pettyfer, Tuppence Middleton, Dimitri Leonidas, Tom Hopper, Calvin Dean, Olly Alexander, April Pearson, Georgia King, Larissa Wilson, Mary Nighy, Peter Amory, Geoff Bell
release UK 22.May.09, US 10.Jul.09
09/UK BBC Films 1h31
Hunters become the hunted: Leonidas and Middleton (above); Hopper and Pettyfer (below) Tormented
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Tormented A sharp sense of gallows humour sets this teen horror apart from the pack. Even if the plot is pretty simple, the characters and dialog are lively and unpredictable. And the cast really goes for it.

Justine (Middleton) is head girl at her high school and on her way to Oxford. She's always managed to bridge the various crowds at school, but things start tipping when she goes out with one of the cool boys (Leonidas) and starts hanging with his pals (hot jock Pettyfer and slutty babes Pearson and King). But after the loner Mullet (Dean) commits suicide, things get even stranger, as the students who had tormented him start dying one by one. And it emerges that he had a big crush on Justine.

Essentially this is Mean Girls twisted into a British slasher flick. And it's notable that there's actually a serious issue (bullying) at the centre of the plot. Even so, the film is assembled with a broad sense of humour and stereotypical characters, plus obvious references to horror movies like Scream and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not to mention gleefully playing on horror traditions from teens having sex to ultra-gory murders.

The rising-star actors are terrific on screen. And they're pretty brave to play the bullying scenes with such a vile sense of realism. It's a clever tactic to cast beautiful young people as such nasty monsters, and then have them targeted for vengeance by a crazed ghost. And even when they try to make up for past sins, we can see they'd do it all over again. This is in refreshing contrast to American horror movies that always water down true, subtle evil in lieu of something more obvious.

Not that this film has any high-minded intentions. It's a gruesome romp from start to finish, often indulging in over-the-top grisliness for hilarious comic effect. Even the bullying is taken to extremes. And there are some rather corny holes in the premise (if they all hated Mullet so much, why is his number stored in everyone's mobile phones?). But in the end, the serious undertones and comical excessiveness combine to make this one of the most entertaining slasher movies in recent memory.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 23.Mar.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall