Director – Joe Manco (Murderballs, The Black Room)
Starring – Paul T. Taylor (Hellraiser: Judgement, The Purge), Lawrence Varnado (Breaking Bad, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), and Robb Hudspeth (Atomic Family, Prepper)
Release Date – 2020
Rating – 4/5
When I was in high school I befriended another genre fan. I was already deep into no budget zombie flicks, Romero, and 80s slashers with an obsession for the Evil Dead trilogy. We met in one of our mutual classes and we started talking horror and metal. He was more interested in the effects side of the genre while I was, and still is, more interested in the overall film with an emphasis on the story. The story makes or breaks a movie for me. After high school we went out separate ways and recently reconnected.
I invited him on to my horror blog to write reviews and he agreed. His first review was for a short from Joe Manco titled The Torturer. I read his review and was interested in the film myself but I had other films sent my way to review so I never followed up on it. Sometime back Manco reached out to me to review the short for Horror Society and I quickly said yes. Thanks Joe for sending this one over!
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows Andy (Taylor) who awakens in a room and is promptly tortured by The Torturer (Varnado). He probes Andy for information that he doesn’t seem to have. The Torturer is convinced he knows and ups the methods used to torture Andy. When Andy is not being tortured he is haunted by visions of the dead and soon everything is revealed about why Andy is suffering and his connection to the dead. **Spoiler Alert**
This short is based on a story that was written and adapted by Paul Kane from his collection Nailbiters. I’m not too familiar with Kane’s work but after watching this beautiful piece of cinema from Manco I’m about to take a deep, dark dive into his writings. I’ve watched and reviewed thousands of movies over the decade that I’ve been doing this and I’ve never seen a film with a title that perfectly sums up a movie before like The Torturer. Not only the basis for the film but the plot twist at the end. This short is a powerful one that you really have to see to get it. No words can do this one justice.
The acting in this one is absolutely astounding. Paul T. Taylor and Lawrence Varnado are absolutely brilliant. They work so well together which makes the scenes even more powerful. The intensity Taylor brings to the scene is unrivaled in movies with a budget like this.
The story for this one is in your face, beautifully written, and the ending makes it all come full circle. After a few minutes I was convinced this was another boring entry in the torture porn sub-genre of extreme horror and was ready for it to be over then the beauty in the story started to shine through. I was not expecting the ending nor was I ready for the story to come around like it did. I’m glad I stuck with it and let it finish telling me everything it had to say.
Finally, this is a beautifully bloody films with some downright amazing practical effects. The make-up effects on the dead look fantastic but the highlight of the film is the effects used during the torture scenes. They are beautifully done and very effective. Overall, The Torturer is a short that shows that there is beauty in depravity. It makes you think it’s just another mindless torture porn but then gives you something very different. I highly recommend checking this one out if you ever get the chance.