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CAPSULE: TORMENTED (2011)

Rabitto Horâ 3D 

DIRECTED BY: Takashi Shimizu

FEATURING: , Takeru Shibuya, 

PLOT: A young boy has nightmares about a giant bunny after he euthanizes a wounded rabbit on the playground; his mute older sister tries to keep him from being sucked into another world.

Still from Tormented (2011)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Tormented is a strange little psychologically twisted J-horror, but it doesn’t exceed the limits of its genre quite enough to rank as one of the weirdest of all time.

COMMENTS: Leporiphobes beware: Tormented (literal title: Rabbit Horror) features the creepiest extra-dimensional cuddly-wuddly bunny since Frank from Donnie Darko. Two of them, actually, since there is the life-sized theme park rodent, and the identical miniaturized ragdoll bunny that floats off the screen of another movie and into young Daigo’s backpack. Mute Kiriko, Daigo’s protective older sister and mother figure, can’t get rid of that second floppy bunny, even when she tries to throw it in the incinerator; it just keeps haunting the pair, dragging both of them down a rabbit hole into a nightmare world of carousels, hospital corridors, spiral staircases, and people dressed as animals performing disturbing acts. Meanwhile, Kiriko and Daigo’s father, a bereaved children’s book illustrator, is trapped in a fantasy world of his own, appearing indifferent to his offspring’s torment. Even though there is little question of what is happening in the dream world and what is going on in reality, the multiple hallucinations and rabbit-initiated flashbacks are disorienting. The movie is also confusing in ways that may not have been  intended; it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening to which character—and sometimes characters even seem to disappear from the action, sometimes even during the same scene. For the patient and observant, however, the basics eventually sort themselves out. There is a consistent psychological symbology running through the delusions—we figure out what both the giant rabbit and the little bunny doll represent—and it all leads to an effective twist two-thirds of the way through the movie. The problem with that is that most twists are revealed at the end of the movie; here, the story seems to end on a satisfactory note, yet there’s still a half an hour to go. The entire third act feels like a wrong turn, an unnecessary coda that ditches the psychological angles in favor of horror movie clichés about super-resilient supernatural adversaries. Still, the movie arguably ends on a further twist, although this one is so ambiguous that you might think you dreamed it. In the end, however, Tormented sports more pluses than minuses, with creepy atmosphere, psychological depth, and spooky bunny suits making up for the occasional storytelling misstep.

As you might guess thanks to scenes of dandelion fluff that conspicuously floats in front of the wide-eyed marveling characters, Tormented was originally shot in 3-D. Less obvious is the fact that it was lensed by celebrated cinematographer . The movie that Kiriko and Daigo watch in the theater is Shimizu’s previous effort, Shock Labyrinth.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a psychedelic meta-J-horror that is part ghost story, part Freudian merry-go-round, and utterly in your face.”–Anton Bitel, Little White Lies (festival screening)

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