Shimizu is no stranger to horror with successful psychological horror The Grudge receiving worldwide acclaim and even an American remake. He returns once again to the genre with this bizarrely fantastical film about a young boy and a giant rabbit.
Mute school library assistant Kiriko searches for her younger brother who has been dragged into a strange world by a giant rabbit doll after a series of weird events. With a concept that could easily be ridiculous, Shimizu experiments with 3D cinema and executes a dark and very clever film about psychology and family issues.
The film opens with a harrowing scene in which Daigo, a ten-year-old boy, kills a sick rabbit with a rock. His peers misunderstand his act of kindness and he is taunted and called ‘rabbit killer’. He stops going to school and instead stays at home where his mute older sister teaches him. Shimizu turns what begins as a generic monster horror about a huge rabbit into a psychological thriller that focuses mainly on the emotional connections between members of a troubled family, and becomes a character study of Kiriko.
The narrative is confusing, and it’s really difficult to decipher what’s actually going on and for me it detracted from the effect of the film. The scares are few and far between, and although the scenes with the giant and very creepy rabbit are dark and visually pleasing, they aren’t explored enough. There is something unsatisfyingly un-scary about the entire film.
‘Tormented’ has a wonderfully weird concept different to anything I’ve seen before. It plays with childhood fears and nightmares, with a theme all the way through of children’s literature, by way of the stories about a mermaid that Kiriko and Daigo’s father is writing. What’s more innocent and cute than a white rabbit? And what better way to portray childhood fears than through a stock character of a lot of children’s stories? If you’re looking for scares this probably isn’t the film to watch, while it is creepy and dark it lacks any of the blood curdling jump scares and visuals from The Grudge and at times the giant rabbit is laugh out loud funny. However if you’re looking for an interesting concept well executed and visually beautiful this might be exactly what you’re looking for.
In the hands of anyone else this film could easily have been a disaster, and while the lack of jump scares and gore might put off fans of Shimizu’s previous work (namely The Grudge) Tormented is none the less a very cleverly constructed psychological horror with some great visuals.