The Tortured (2010)

Intense, chilling and oddly satisfying, The Tortured (2010 - Directed by Robert Lieberman) is an emotional roller coaster ride that digs deeply into a parents’ worst nightmare. As their transformation from loving guardians to violent vicious killers occurs, many, if not most or all, will probably find themselves rooting them on, agreeing…even though it is morally wrong.

Elise (Erika Christensen) and Craig Landry  (Jesse Metcalfe) are stable, upper middle class and the epitome of family, parenting their only child Ben (Thomas Greenwood), a happily content toddler, with love and guidance.

John Kozlowski (Bill Moseley) is a schizophrenic whacked out taxidermist loner who listens to old scratchy albums of children songs, sits at a vanity putting on loud colored ugly or misplaced placed make-up and brushing his hair when he is the adolescent daughter figure; or yelling at the top of his lungs when he portrays the father figure. Both are one in the same. (A perfect Bill Moseley character I might add).

The day is serene and typical. (However, the audience sees Kozlowski, unbeknownst to Craig, sitting creepily by in a beat up camper loaded old truck, watching the young Ben frolic about on a backyard Jungle Gym and fearfully setting the stage of inevitability.)

While Ben plays, Craig hurries inside the home seeking sunscreen only to find the drawer where it is normally kept a cluttered mess. As he searches through the plethora of miscellaneous bottles, he also maintains a more than occasional glance out the window keeping watch over his son.

He turns his attentions away for but a few seconds and looks back in time to horrifyingly (a truly frightening and effective scene) see Kozlowski snatching up Ben under his arm and running to the truck, parked nearby. Craig races out of the house after them, but is too late as Kozlowski already has Ben in the truck and is speeding away. Craig retrieves his car and begins to pursue, but is too late and loses trail of the kidnapper. An Amber Alert is issued and the manhunt is on.

Fears are eventually realized, but not initially from the viewers’ standpoint, as the police stumble upon the truck, partially hidden by a tarp, in the driveway of the kidnapper’s home. During a doorway questioning, the officers notice bloody footprints across the home’s floor, giving them reasonable suspicion to search. But, as mentioned prior, it is too late. Ben has been the victim of a heinous crime.

A subsequent exploratory excavation of Kozlowski’s backyard follows, turning up other unfortunate victims’ remains and it looks as though the case is shut and dried with the molester certainly ending up in the chair. But, not all is what it seems and so begins an emotional trial between the couple, the accused and state, and the audience.

Realizing that the state could be in for a difficult insanity plea trial, the D.A. strikes a bargain allowing Kozlowski to plead guilty, and the creep is sentenced to 25 years to life, which really means that he could possibly be free in 10 years.

This is unacceptable to Elise and she vividly wants to take matters into her own hands. Her doctor husband Craig, who, while not agreeing with the sentence, has unwittingly accepted the judgment and tries to talk sense into Elise, attributing her motive to post traumatic stress.

Full depression sets in and a distraught Elise decides to leave the marriage, sending Craig into a downward spiral and toward the brink of suicide. (The film wisely and effectively uses Craig’s memorial flashbacks of happier times as he solemnly slouches in the home’s chair surrounded by packed boxes for emphasis). But, he snaps and becomes furious at what has become, deciding Elise was right and they reconnect to form a revenge plan.

Not wanting to give too much of the film away, lets just say that a hypodermic syringe, an old wartime gas mask, a cherry fire tipped cigar and a few other implements become eventual characters, causing both repulsion and cheer, successfully carrying the fast paced film through a suspenseful journey filled with edge of the seat excitement, all the way to the never seen it coming plot twisted ending.

 

 

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