December 2004

Torture Me No More

After having spent some time in gaol - and still on probation - as a result of his hacking, Salvatore Santos (Jason Liebig) - Sal from here on in - returns to his family home to visit his younger brother, Chancy (Chris Carr). The reunion is a happy one - Chancy is certainly delighted to see his brother again - and they settle down to an evening of televised basketball and munchies.

Not entirely surprisingly, the word pizza is mentioned and Sal finds himself agreeing to travel to his kid brothers favourite pizzeria for a take out.

While Sal is picking up the pizza, someone breaks into Chancys house. Someone who looks a lot like Sal. Chancy disturbs the intruder and - following a fight, which is witnessed by Chancys neighbours - the intruder kills Chancy and escapes, leaving Sal very much in the frame as the prime suspect.

Chased by a pair of women detectives (Anna Kepe and Joanne Bonaro) that manage to combine arrogance and incompetence into a very special sort of stupidity, and aided by Babe (Duncan Wright) - not the fastest thinker in the world, but reasonably reliable nonetheless - Sal sets out both to prove his innocence and to find the real killer of his brother.

This search leads him into a nefarious world of extreme sexual violence and an eventual encounter with the bizarre character of Fachio (Chris Mclamore) who makes videos.

At this point the film really does take a turn for the severely brutal - so much so that it does become very difficult - almost painful - to watch.

The upshot of all this, however, is that Sal manages to rescue Fachios most recent victim, Dahlia (Kristina Doran) who eventually becomes part of - and expands the scope - of Sals quest. Between them, Sal and Dahlia embark on a vigilante rampage during which Dahlia discovers a whole new sadistic streak.

The tagline for Torture Me No More is one of the most accurate Ive seen in a long time. None of the characters in this film can be described as entirely good - or even entirely stable. There is at least something wrong with every character in the film, and a lot wrong with each of the major characters.

Its quite an achievement, therefore, on the part of writer/director Francis Xavier DeGennaro that he managed to keep me watching - and wanting to know how things were going to pan out - from beginning to end. It is a violent film - sometimes horrifyingly so - but without descending into gratuitousness.

Torture Me Know More is also a very grim film - and difficult to watch in places. That said, apart from a few particularly violent scenes, this feel is apparent more in the atmosphere of the film than in specific events. The lighting, the camera angles and the soundtrack all combine to make for a very dark - almost dirty - feel throughout.

But DeGennaro has managed to combine this grimness with a very oddball sense of humour, making for an often strange and occasionally surreal experience. And I think that without this humour, the realism of the darker sequences would have made for a film that was simply too painful to watch.

At its best, Torture Me No More is an exploration of what draws people into abusive behaviour - be it physical, verbal or sexual - and the way that, once people start seeking individual retribution, it becomes increasingly difficult - if not impossible - to draw a line between right and wrong.

The film also touches on the link between animal cruelty and violence against people, suggesting an inevitability of ever more extreme behaviour.

And even the two detectives - in many ways more caricatures than characters - accurately reflect the way in which people so obsessed with corporate politicking that they become unable - or unwilling - to actually do their job.

Torture Me No More is a dark but involving film that attempts to explore the whys of abusive and violent behaviour. Its subject matter makes it hard going in places, but it is a great first film from a writer/director with a lot of potential.

Baby Doll

Baby Doll
Rosemary Gore seems to have a real talent for portraying unstable characters and, slightly frighteningly, inducing a level of sympathy for them among the audience. She achieved this to great effect in Glen Baisley’s excellent Fear of the Dark, but she really does surpass herself in Baby Doll.

This is the story of Casey Henson (Rosemary Gore), an outwardly normal young woman who never quite recovered from the death of her parents or the subsequent abuse at the hands of various orphanages and foster parents.

And, when she’s out and about, there are clues and hints that something is not quite right with Casey. But these are the sort of clues that we – with the additional knowledge that comes from being in the audience – can pick up on but that the other characters, quite reasonably, don’t.

Because, when Casey goes home she reverts back to the four year old who was orphaned in a car accident – a child who is violently responding to her subsequent years of abuse.

This is more than a little unlucky for the guy (Victor Moreyra) she has tied to her bed.

What makes this such a gripping and disturbing film is that Gore really does lead you into an understanding of Casey’s world – one that is dark, disturbed and intense. Baby Doll is frightening, not so much because of the violence that has happened or is happening, but because if the inevitability of the violence that will follow – that and the fact that you feel yourself sympathising, to some extent, with Casey’s position.

This feeling is amply supported by the Lance J. Reha’s direction with skewed camera angles, atmospheric lighting and a genuinely creepy soundtrack, all of which serve to amplify the general sense of both unease and inherent danger throughout.

Baby Doll is a powerful and disturbing film with a rather effective final twist that easily transcends its low budget origins to create an intense experience that is not easily forgotten.