Torture Chamber

Torture Chamber (2013)
Vivendi Visual Entertainment
Cast: Vincent Pastore, Ron Millkie, Carmen LoPorto, Ellie Pettit, Lynn Lowry
Extras: Still Gallery

Dante Tomaselli is one of most visually striking directors working in the horror genre these days. An independent director, working with small budgets, he has repeatedly shown that atmosphere, vision and style are often more important than costly, over-the-top effects to tell a scary story. I was eager to see how his latest film, "Torture Chamber," turned out.

In the film, a young boy is possessed by an evil spirit. Trying to exorcise the boy, a priest and nun have him under observation in an insane asylum where they keep him locked up in a cage. But one day the young boy manages to escape, the evil within him growing stronger, feeding his desire for anguish and violence. He finds refuge in the ruins of an abandoned castle, complete with an ancient torture chamber. Slowly, the evil seed that inhabits the boy begins to expand its grip on the surrounding township, spreading like a disease, breaking people on the rack, never stopping at anyone, not even his own family.

"Torture Chamber" plays like a modern day version of a Mario Bava flick. It is atmospheric and sinister, using fantastic imagery and sequences to create the sense of evil that emanates from the boy and his evil domain. It is not so much the narrative that carries the film. The plot is limited and so are the locations and cast, while dialogue is held at a minimum, and yet, "Torture Chamber" manages to surface as one scary ride that plants images in your mind that simply refuse to go away.

To call the film "artsy" would go too far, but Tomaselli most definitely has his focus on the artistic side of film making in this release. His imagery completely belies the film's limited budget and manages to brood, shock and unsettle viewers as they are drawn down this dark pit of horror. It is, in its own way, a brilliant film that shows that you do not have to stay with established formulae to make a good movie, that often the formula itself is a burden to the genre and that a director's progressive imagination can take you places you yourself would not dare go.

Topped off with top notch make up effects and Tomaselli's great cinematography, "Torture Chamber" is the kind of film, fans of the genre's true grandmasters have been searching for for years.

Featuring a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, "Torture Chamber" looks wonderful on this DVD release. You would never guess that this film was shot on a modest $200,000 budget, as the presentation and visuals are so rich and atmospheric. Although the movie was shot entire using digital cameras, Tomaselli avoided all of the pitfalls that even major directors like Michael Mann and Michael Bay fell into in the past, managing to create a look throughout that resembles a film production rather than a digital shot. There is a rawness to the material and wonderfully controlled depth of field, truly showcasing that Tomaselli is a master of the digital format, embracing its capabilities not to create a slick, hyperrealistic and consequently artificial look, but instead to create dynamic shots that never lose touch with the wonderful magic of cinematic illusion. The DVD transfer brings out the best of it, with rich colors and solid black levels, and without compression artifacts.

The audio on the release is presented as a 5.1 Dolby Digital track that is dynamic and is every bit as effective as the visuals. Assaulting your senses from every direction at times, the surround channels are very aggressive and active, adding to the chilling experience of the film as a whole. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

As the only extra, the DVD also offers up a still gallery with production photos.

"Torture Chamber" is a top notch production of an ambitious film that strays far from the formulaic approach found in Hollywood today. It takes its indie roots seriously by carving out its own path, surprising viewers, unsettling them and shocking them with a visceral experience that is scary and grotesque, yet never excessively graphic. Very cool!