If you’ve heard the hype and are expecting this to be a Scream for the Skins generation, you’re in for a disappointing shock – although you may as well make the most of it, as there aren’t many other shocks to be found in Jon Wright’s predictable high-school horror.

That’s not to say there aren’t any similarities at all. Like Scream, Tormented tries to splice comedy with horror as a group of attractive teens find themselves under attack. However, while the former managed to cleverly satirise the slasher genre while retaining the scare factor, the latter fails to truly succeed on either count. Instead, it relies on lewd banter, skimpy school uniforms and over-the-top special effects.

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Largely set around a suburban grammar school, the film follows straight-laced head girl Justine (Tuppence Middleton) as she finds herself drawn to the popular Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas) and the rest of the in-crowd. In a massive movie cliché, the cool kids aren’t a pleasant lot and get their kicks from picking on other pupils. One such victim is Darren Mullett (Calvin Dean), an overweight asthmatic who’s been driven to suicide by their savage taunts, cyber-bullying and happy-slapping. However, while Darren may be gone, he’s got no intention of being forgotten before he can wreak his bloody revenge…

While this premise could have worked well, it doesn’t – mainly because you couldn’t care less what happens to the whole horrible bunch. Yes, the hip, young stars look like they could have stepped out of Skins (and in fact, at least three of them did), but the characters are so annoying you’d like to bump them off yourself within moments, not 91 minutes. Every conceivable school stereotype is here – from the bimbos to the emos to the scrawny geek complete with requisite bad hair and big glasses – and they’re all as irritating as one another.

To make matters worse, the zombie-like killer at the centre of the film is about as frightening as Bambi. It’s virtually impossible to feel spooked by a blue-veined villain who looks like a strange cross between James Corden and a slice of stilton. As he lumbers into shot, slowly fumbling for his inhaler, you just want to drag him to the doctors.

Nonetheless, the film does have two saving graces. The first comes in the form of Alex Pettyfer, who proves he’s more than just a pretty face as the group’s malicious, manipulative ringleader. It’s a far cry from his role in Stormbreaker, but he certainly exudes a kind of youthful charisma that could see him become Britain’s answer to Zac Efron.

Secondly, a couple of the more inventive scenes are amusingly memorable, taking those school urban legends to new lengths. From gym towels to guillotines to, er, sharpened pencils, everyday objects suddenly threaten to become potential weapons. (If only Mr Mullett could have figured that out faster…)

Though such sequences rescue Tormented from total turkey-dom, it’s still not as smart, scary or funny as it likes to think it is. Bottom of the class? Probably not. But it could definitely do better.

Reviewed on: 18 May 2009
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A bullied teen gets his own back from beyond the grave.
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