I’m completed puzzled over the online raves for the British slasher “Tormented.” It’s been called “funny” and “awesome” by those who caught it in the UK last year; I found it anything but on both counts.

Here’s the gist: At a fancy-schmancy prep school, a fat, asthmatic kid with the unfortunate name of Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean) is bullied relentlessly by classmates who call him Shrek and play keep-away with his inhaler, eventually driving him to suicide. After his funeral, they receive threatening, crude, animated messages on their cell phones, presumably from the deceased. They think it’s a prank until their precious little clique gets narrower by the day.

Countless horror films have shared such a premise, some executing it well. The key is to make the killer’s victims sympathetic, especially if they’re the focus. Here, they’re so self-absorbed, smug and spoiled, director Jon Wright can’t dispatch them fast enough for the viewer. That makes for an unpleasant hour and a half, especially when his tone veers uneasily from gore to comedy, lacking confidence in each. He tries to make up for it with “cool” quick cuts and a hip soundtrack, but all his tricks can’t create an illusion. At least the reason behind the messages is kinda nifty, but only kinda. —”Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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