Life at Fairview High is much the same as at any other modern British institute of education. The students are split into distinct groups – the geeks, the Goths, the middle-of-the roaders and, of course, ruling over them all, the popular kids who spend their time systematically targeting those who don’t match up to their high standards. But when uber-nerd Darren (Calvin Dean) kills himself, strange things begin to happen to those who made his life miserable – including self-proclaimed king of cool Bradley (Alex Pettyfer) and the pouting Tasha (April Pearson) When rule-following head girl Justine (Tuppence Middleton) falls for sexy Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas), she finds herself drawn into the clique – and into the terrifying things that are befalling them. Can she find out the truth about what’s happening before it’s too late?
Like Night of the Living Dead meets Skins, Jon Wright’s hormonal horror starts life as a run of the mill teen drama, with the usual mix of adolescent sex, alcohol-fuelled parties and general attitude, but soon turns into something altogether more bloody interesting. By introducing a supernatural element, of a wronged boy seeking post-mortem revenge, the film tackles the serious matter of bullying in a way that is more schlocky fun than after-school special.
Critical to the story, written by newcomer Stephen Prentice is that, with the exception of head girl Justine, none of these characters are likeable, and so you are rooting for them to fall foul of some serious zombie revenge. And make no mistake, even though it takes a while for the body count to start, these bullies get what’s coming to them, and then some, meeting their maker in a variety of stomach-churning ways.
There’s some dark humour slicing through the horror, too, with Prentice making full use of the familiar British high school setting to draw out some of the funnier moments, including pranks that many members of the film’s audience might recognise from their own scholarly youth. And the use of everyday school equipment, including gym towels and pencils, as lethal weapons is certainly entertaining to anyone who harboured secret thoughts of assassinating their maths teacher.
Unfortunately, the film falters when zombie Darren appears on screen; it seems the small budget was spent on securing half of the cast members from Skins rather than on any monster make-up. But the energetic performances from the young actors keep the film moving on regardless, and the climax is both bloody and satisfying. Ultimately, although it may not have as much bite as some of its Hollywood counterparts, Tormented is a fun flag-waver for new British horror.
Stars Alex Pettyfer, April Peason, Tuppence Middleton
Director Jon Wright
Screenplay Stephen Prentice
Distributor Pathe Productions
Running Time 1hr 31mins
Opens May 22