Torn: A Shock Youmentary (2014)
Director: Justin Carter
Writer: Justin Carter
Cast: Phil Baker, Charlotte Bird, Simon Burbage, Sam Burns, Prudence Catley, Danny D’Anzieri, Kit Cox
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Coming across as a sort of Blair Witch Project version of hunting The Wolfman, Torn: A Shockumentary certainly has its heart in the right place I’ll give it that. Also, being set in my home county of Devon made the entire film feel much more real, and in essence, far more effective.
Opening with a collection of interviews from local country folk, we quickly learn that something horrible happened to a quiet rural village in the Devon countryside. Rumours of The Devonshire Devil get passed off as myth and nonsense, with some believing in it (usually the crazy ones) and others rolling their eyes at the stories. However, the interviews are taking place as a documentary filmmaker tries to piece together the unfortunate events of the past year where a local girl was brutally killed.
Her boyfriend Ollie was blamed for the crime, and he insists that he did not do it, and that some creature was the culprit, the Devonshire Devil. The documentary then focuses on Ollie, and his band of loveable rogues as they set about trying to clear his name by hunting the beast in their spare time. The documentary filmmaker films the group as they share a pint in the pub, work during the day, and go hunting in the woods at night.
Using blends of both handheld footage and the more traditional style of filmmaking, Torn: A Shockumentary is a neat little horror film and is definitely one for the found footage purists to seek out. The main cast of characters are all enjoyable to be around, with Ollie at the heart of the story and delivering a warm, emotional performance that really makes you feel for him. He lost his girlfriend to a horrible monster, and he just wants his name cleared so that he can morn his loss. His friends all support him, and each character has his own personality that will make you remember them. From the Scottish guy Chris (who gives the best performance of the entire film) to Tom who is desperate to fire off his Father’s shotgun, you won’t get bored with this lot.
We follow them through pub talk and threats from locals, relationships and ultimately loss, and the director delivers these moments of emotional turmoil with honesty and care in order to tell the story as if it really did happen. A simple shot of a character with their head down is enough to show sadness, without the need for fake tears or over the top acting. These guys are like your mates down the pub, and the connection you will make with the characters strengthens the films impact.
Director Justin Carter cleverly uses the found footage angle to cover up the films low budget, and uses shots at night to hide the beast well. Growling sounds and rustling of trees are used to indicate the beast is nearby, but in a smart move you never really see it, leaving you to make up your own mind as to whether it really is a monster, or something else. Thankfully the films conclusion only adds to the mystery, leaving a baffling, yet compelling finish that will leave you both frustrated and happy that the film leaves the reveal up to you to work out.
The films setting in the Devon countryside is both stunning and yet extremely creepy where it needs to be. I liked the fact the film uses its surroundings to great effects, from shooting in the local village and its buildings, to shots of the countryside panning out to take in as much as possible. When the film takes a dark turn around an hour or so in, stunning shots of The Moors as the sun sets, or during bad weather with plenty of mist, really create a sense of magic and dread (something Dartmoor is capable of doing in the blink of an eye) and the director utilizes these shots with some great music for maximum effect, and it really works.
The films low budget and sometimes amateurish design can be forgiven here, for it is clear the director had a vision, and has done everything in his power to bring that vision to life. The majority of the films works, and while there are some scripting issues, or bad delivery of more frantic moments of madness, on the whole the film is well executed, with a clear vision, passion and desire from the director. Even amongst all the emotional stuff (Ollie talking about his family business and how the murder has effected it) there is time for some comedy, which helps lighten the mood. Seeing the group panic at night in a field when hearing strange noises is met with a response of “Jesus, it’s a fucking sheep!” (there’s LOTS of swearing by the way!) collapses the intense build up of fear, in a good way.
Later on while getting close to the beast and feeling they may be about to catch their prize, the boys get excited and scared, with one asking “do we stay and fight?”, while gung-ho Tom who is desperate to fire his gun urgently rushes forward bellowing “that’s what we’re here for!”. Later in a town meeting, the directors observation that his film is ultra low budget is announced by the Mayor. When asked about bringing in the Army to take down the beast, he responds: “don’t be an idiot, this is not some Hollywood movie!”. Moments like this are welcome, and show that the director knows his limits, and knows how to keep audiences interested.
The die hard found footage fans will find plenty to enjoy, as will the purists for Torn delivers enough handheld camera moments to keep them all happy. Casual horror fans may not be as welcoming, for the film can be hard to buy in to if this is not your thing. The low budget may put some people off, yet those willing to give a film a chance will be rewarded with an interesting story, a great set of characters, and a wonderful air of mystery, intrigue and ultimately fear.
Folklore tales are always the best tools in horror, and Torn: A Shockumentary utilizes this to great effect, delivering a found footage shocker that both excites, shocks and delivers the scares when required. The perfect horror for the found footage enthusiast!