A lurid and exploitative adventure into erotica, violence, pain, and the unknown. Necrophilia, torture, gore, and psychological horror
You can’t wave a limited collector’s edition VHS tape in the independent horror world and not hit what some folks would call a torture p**n movie. And it makes sense – if your film revolves primarily around brutal torture sequences, you can spend way more time on gore effects, and way less time (and money) on professional actors, plot, and locations. Problem is, all of these efforts start to feel like the exact same movie. Enter Her Name Was Torment. To be honest, I’m still not sold on the idea that “torture p**n” accurately describes this movie (and I’m not a big fan of the label anyway, only using it here for context), but I am sure that this movie is not like most you’ve seen.
Her Name Was Torment is a strangely erotic, brutal, artsy, gory movie written and directed by Dustin Mills (see also Skinless, Kill That B*tch, The Hornet’s Sting and the Hell It’s Caused, etc). This film centers around one woman, who we know for now as “Patient 394” (played by Allison Egan, a Dustin Mills production regular). She is being interviewed by what we can assume is a prison psychologist (played by Mills himself), where he asks her about the killings she is accused of – 27 murders, to be exact. Her face is blurred in these scenes, which are intercut throughout the short running time (this movie is only about fifty minutes long, and I wouldn’t have minded if it had been double that), but her words are loud and clear as she talks about angels, and the overseer, and how her victims were not people. Pretty crazy stuff, but it gets crazier…
When not shown blurred in the interrogation room, “Patient 394,” also known as “Torment,” can be seen wearing a mask and a clear, vinyl apron (to protect from the blood, of course) and not much else. But the “erotic” is juxtaposed directly against the violent as she slowly and methodically takes her victim apart. Her victim, mind you, being a seemingly random guy she followed at the start of the film (the guy/victim, credited as “Subject 2,” is played by another Mills regular, Brandon Salkil). While much of the interview footage is filmed in black and white, most of the torture footage is in color, letting us see the red stuff flow. It’s also pretty graphic, as teeth are pulled out, fingernails are torn off, and various other essential body parts are removed violently. We also see that she keeps these parts, putting the teeth and nails and whatnot into a collection that has evidently been going strong for some time.
Her Name Was Torment feels more like the beginning of something, like our introduction to a whole new world, as opposed to a stand-alone story. So it’s not surprising that there are (at least) two additional chapters to this story (parts 2 & 3). But that doesn’t mean that this movie, part one, can’t be enjoyed for what it is. On the contrary, I really like what Mills did with a fairly simple concept (which, without giving spoilers, will no doubt become something much bigger and more intricate, judging by the final act of this film). He managed to commingle the sensual with the violent and disturbing in a non-misogynist, non-boy’s club kind of way, with a little bit of psychology and a hint of a cult theme thrown in the mix as well. Not to mention, we’ve got a female killer and a male victim here for a change.
Her Name Was Torment is a well put together film. It is obvious that it was made on a very tight budget, but at the same time does not suffer for it, but rather makes the most of it. The acting works, with much of the dialogue focused in the interview scenes anyway. It reminds me of the art/horror vibe that exists in the films of Jorg Buttgereit (and, not coincidentally, contains a scene that has Nekromantik written all over it), with hints of Boy Meets Girl in there as well. I really like the direction this film, as well as some of Mills’ other more recent works, have taken, and I look forward to seeing what he can do with Her Name Was Torment 2 and 3. I’d put this out there as another good example that there is most definitely good, original horror still coming out today. Sometimes you just have to find it.