Well Go USA // 2011 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // April 3rd, 2013
No one understood his act of kindness.
My enjoyment of horror movies does not really depend on whether they scare me. If yours does, then your opinion on Tormented 3D will likely vary greatly from mine, because the movie is not scary at all. It is really weird, though, and that works a lot better for me than a bunch of junk flying in from the sides of the screen. Instead of all that, this is a movie that takes some of the atmospheric conventions from the Japanese horror tradition and adds in a very strange family storyline to deliver a fairly interesting and moderately successful little thriller.
When 10-year-old Daigo (Takeru Shibuya) finds a dying rabbit in the schoolyard, he puts it out of its misery...with a brick. With Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima, Love Strikes!), his mute older sister and half the school standing by, he is disgraced and never returns to school. His scars over the incident run deep, but Kiriko is there for him, so on his birthday, she takes him out to a 3D horror movie. In it, a girl throws a stuffed bunny at the screen and out it floats, right into Daigo's hand. That night, his dreams are terrorized by a massive version of the animal who takes him into another world from which he barely escapes. Soon, Kiriko starts seeing it too and they must find a way to destroy the bunny before it takes them for good.
Had American distributors gone with the original title, Rabbit Horror, rather than the absolutely generic Tormented 3D, there would have been a lot more people who would have wanted to see it, if only to see what something called that would be. I'd certainly have gone out of my way to see it and, really, it is a far more descriptive of what actually goes on in the film.
Now, what actually goes on is often incomprehensible, but that's part of the fun. There are three or four hard twists, characters come in and out, change ages, and sometimes even appear in the same scene in different parts of their life. The one constant, though, is the giant pink bunny. Its appearance will certainly draw a few laughs (and, potentially, other feelings from you plushophiliacs out there), but it's pretty creepy in places and the surrealism of it is off-putting enough to be effective much of the time.
Director Takashi Shimizu, who brought The Grudge over to this country, knows how to deliver chills, if not a comprehensible story. His plotting deficiencies are almost entirely made up for by his conceptual and stylistic vision. Tormented 3D may not make a lot of sense, but there are a few very cool scenes inside all the craziness. The movie begs to be seen in a 3D theater, if for no other reason than the scenes in the theater. In the first, which (without spoilers) gets the horror rolling, they're watching Shimizu's previous film, The Shock Labyrinth, which features a stuffed bunny, and seeing the toy emerge from the screen and into the real world is a fantastic 3D effect. There is a reprise of this later in the film, in which the screen comes to the characters, and they have a meta aspect that worked really well on me. Some will complain about the incomprehensibility of the story and the general lack of scares, but I really like a good weird Japanese horror flick and Tormented 3D delivers that side of it and, for me, that's good enough for a mild recommendation.
Tormented 3D comes to Blu-ray from Well Go USA with both the 3D and 2D versions on the same bare bones disc. Even though the style of the film is perfect for 3D, the transfer doesn't hold up to watching it that way at home. It's too dark, a common problem with the format, but it's also very murky much of the time and, at times, the images don't quite come together properly. That's really too bad, as well, because some of the scenes would have been perfect for it. If you can see it in a 3D theater, it might well fare better, so see it there, but on disc, best to stick to the 2D version, which looks quite a lot better. It's not perfect and is sometimes a little soft, but is much better. The DTS-HD 5.1 track, though, is quite good. Loud and aggressive, it delivers most of the shocks in the rear channels and subwoofer really nicely, while keeping the dialog and atmospheric score nice and clear. The only bonus feature is a trailer.
It's going to take a certain amount of tolerance for J-horror weirdness, but I found myself compelled by the confusing plot and bizarre villain. Tormented 3D is far from perfect, but Shimizu knows what he's doing around creepy kids and it works. It's a shame that the home 3D doesn't work all that well, but the 2D transfer is decent and still worth watching. If you like Japanese-style creepiness, then Tormented 3D delivers the rabbit horror.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 2D Version