Thursday, September 9, 2021

Torment (1990)

... aka: Rozdarcie

Directed by:
Michael J. Murphy

Anna Bell (Debbi Stevens) is a controversial, obscenely-wealthy hot blonde pop singer in the Samantha Fox mold, as well as a tabloid fixture. Hounded by the press who obsess over her every move (and a recent breakup she's had with a high-profile actor), Anna has decided to take it easy for awhile in a large country home she purchased three years earlier but, as of yet, hasn't had the opportunity to stay in. That's how busy she's been. Her big-haired manager Mike (Philip Lyndon) keeps trying to convince her to come back to London to record, but Anna refuses the offer. The singer, already on the verge of a nervous breakdown and stressed to the breaking point, needs some peace and quiet to recuperate. She also has a bit of problem with pills and booze she's hoping to kick. Besides, nothing's stopping her from continuing to write songs right where she is. Anna doubles down on staying even after discovering that a girl in the nearby village has just been found strangled to death. Having to go back to London, Mike makes her promise to keep her doors locked and tells her he plans on sending her some company... whether she likes it or not.

One day there's a knock on Anna's door. It's a friendly and boyish-looking young man named Mathew (Rob Bartlett). A handyman, he gives her his card and offers to fix her damaged fence. She reluctantly agrees, so long as he doesn't bother her while she's trying to work. While he's there, she realizes that having him around may not be such a bad thing. Besides, there's a huge amount of work to do. She gives him a list and Mathew becomes a frequent presence around the home.

With Mike putting pressure on her to continue writing songs and Anna lacking the inspiration to do so, she finds herself being drawn to plain, simple-minded, breath-of-fresh-air Mathew and his ordinary, leisurely life. The two start spending time together, he agrees to show her some of the area's beautiful scenery and the two are soon finding themselves having romantic feelings for one another. But the party is crashed by the arrival of Anna's choreographer Guy (Patrick Olliver), who's been sent there by Mike to keep an eye on her. Guy is a flamboyant "queen" and not in that nice / funny kind of way but in the bitchy / asshole-ish kind of way. He also wears a ridiculous wig.

After Guy runs Mathew off, he returns home and jerks off to one of Anna's music videos. He then burns all of the posters and photos of her he has plastered all over his walls. You could say he's a bit of a fan. Or was. To make matter worse, Anna's sister Fiona (Catherine Rowlands) shows up for an extended visit and the two sisters don't get along well. The stress causes Anna to fall right back off the horse. Sensing her unwanted guests are getting to her and have always been the source of her problems, which isn't entirely inaccurate because both Mike and Fiona have been living off Anna's back (the manager also keeps plying her with the pills), Mathew decides to help her out. And by help her out, I mean murdering everyone around her.

After an embarrassing dinner party where a drunk Anna makes a fool of herself and Fiona and Guy both let her new amour know he's not welcome there, Mathew stabs Guy to death in the kitchen. He hides the body, burns his belongings and makes it look like he snuck out in the middle of the night. However, a suspicious Fiona finds him with one of Guy's handkerchiefs and the two sisters make a run for it. At the police station they discover it is indeed Mathew who's suspected of strangling that local girl. Apparently she made the terrible offense of singing one of Anna's songs (gulp!) off-key and then bad-mouthing her, so she had to go.

The manager shows back up and concocts a lie that the police have apprehended Mathew just so he can stage a comeback concert for Anna at a small local venue. During the concert, Anna spots Mathew in the crowd and then her actor ex-boyfriend Craig (Alan Jansen) is found slashed to death in a stairwell. Anna and Fiona return to the home to pack their belongings, with plans of immediately heading to London. Mathew kills a cop, kills Fiona and then plans to pick up just where he and Anna left off, "just like a young married couple." But Anna, who has since pretty much gone completely insane, has other ideas in store for him. She cracks a bottle over his head, puts on a disguise, goes to a hardware store and returns with a goody bag of stuff to torture him with.

The booze-soaked "revenge" conducted by Anna starts with her tying him to a chair and belittling him. She then refuses Mathew food and water whilst gorging herself right in front of him to rub it in. When he pisses himself, she rips his clothes off with a knife and throws him into a scalding hot shower. She also dresses sexy and gives him a lap dance (?!) and ends up killing somebody and burning their body in the front yard while smoking a cigarette and wearing fishnet stockings. I must admit seeing a butt ass naked guy being tortured for twenty minutes did make for a nice change of pace since almost always a woman placed in that same scenario.

Despite being ineptly edited and shot half the time (some of the awkward dialogue scenes are also pretty painful to sit through), this isn't completely worthless. Things begin strongly as it establishes the attraction between, and then the early relationship of, the singer and the she-doesn't-know-it-yet obsessed fan. Unfortunately, that's the first 20 or so minutes and this then resorts to filler to pad out the mid-section. We get two (very cheap-looking) Anna music videos plus two songs performed almost in their entirely at an Anna concert, with her writhing around on stage in a red, skin-tight latex dress. Stevens does her own singing and is the most entertaining cast member by far. It's mostly the annoying supporting characters who drag this down a bit, though I guess they needed a certain number of unsympathetic victims to kill off. The last 20 minutes are pretty silly, but not boring.

There are some bloody death scenes, lots of Italian-style light-shining-off-blade shots, plus enough nudity and sex to put this in the "erotic thriller" category, though it predates the huge spate of DTV erotic films that went on to dominate late night cable in the 90s and 2000s by a few years. Shot on 16mm, this was virtually unseen during the video boom era. The only VHS release I was able to find was a Polish one under the title Rozdarcie. In 2004, it was shown on the Horror Channel out of the UK and, in 2010, it was released on DVD-R by IFM World Releasing. Still, this is seldom-seen and, as of this writing, only has 22 votes on IMDb.

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