The Torturer (2020)

A man is interrogated for information he can't recall, but there's more to the mystery than meets the eye. As the torment he endures get worse, it becomes clear that something else is going on behind the scenes.


Joe Manco


Paul Kane




Credited cast:
Paul T. Taylor ... Andy Brooks
Lawrence Varnado ... The Torturer
Robb Hudspeth ... Sarge
Richard Houghton ... Dr. Campbell
Lance Parker ... Officer Smith
Kristin Keith ... Girl with the big eyes
Nathan Gershon ... Motorcyclist
Charlie Hodges ... Ghoul
Cory W. Ahre Cory W. Ahre ... Man having a bad day
Ian Eshelman Ian Eshelman ... Guilt
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jason Barnett Jason Barnett ... Guard 02
Michael Boodagh II Michael Boodagh II ... Extra
Jeff Boren Jeff Boren ... Extra- Nurse
Dominque Driver Dominque Driver ... Extra-Ghoul
Ariyel Griffin Ariyel Griffin ... Girl With the Bloodied Face


Based on the short story from the collection Nailbiters, written and adapted by award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane, this tells the story of Andy Brooks - a man who wakes up in a cell and is consequently interrogated for information he claims he doesn't have. But, as the torture escalates - performed by the sadistic Torturer himself - it eventually becomes apparent that there is something else happening aside from this battle of wills. Also a play and soon to be a comic book. Written by Paul Kane

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Thriller

User Reviews

The Reverend Rippeth gives it 4 1/2 Evil Ed Heads
8 January 2021 | by littlesparkfilmsSee all my reviews

If the grit of Se7en had a baby with the torturous heart of Clive Barker, and the child was raised by Jigsaw, with Grandpa Argento decorating the nursery, and that being could be trans-mutated into a short film, it would be Joe Manco's masterful interpretation of Paul Kane's story: the Torturer. I will admit, I went into this with little expectations, as many shorts fall flat, due to time and budget constraints. I couldn't have been more wrong. I walked away from this feeling like I had sat through a full-length feature, that had my attention from opening to closing credits.

The film begins with a vague introduction to our main character, Andy, being captured and thrown into a dark room. Many suspense/thriller types that try this leave the audience too confused to get into the unfolding plot until much further in the film. Not this one. The intensity of the interrogation consumes you, despite not knowing anything about the lead's back story.

"Who do you work for and what do you do?!?"- The Torturer

The ambiguous nature of the story is the fuel for the cinematic, wildfire. As soon as we are drawn into the passionate queries of the Torturer, we are smashed in the face with some of the best, lower-budget torture effects I've seen. Far from being "torture-porn" the violence takes you right to the edge of unbearably gruesome, only to let you breathe for a bit, before the next round. This is the kind of ebb and flow that genre films have lacked for far too long. Ambience, emotion, isolation and atmosphere are the main tools that comprise the cinematography, which could be best described as visual and visceral poetry. The extreme, uncomfortable closeups tug the strings attached to the part of my heart reserved for the love of this Fulci-esque style. It is absolutely gorgeous. Rhythmic dialogue is the melody, enhanced by the harmony created with superb sound design.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I have to touch on the surrealistic sequences with what we would call "The Victims." Again, ambiguity prevents us from being able to put our finger on whose victims these people are and what relation Andy has to them. The effects here harken back to splatter films of the 80s, but with the Giallo-esque lighting, they are used with excellent precision. At no point, is anything gratuitous. On the contrary, it is painful, It is gory, it is art imitating life.

The major arc in the story is obviously the relationship between the Torturer and Andy. It is in no way like Hostel or Saw, as it is not done in a sadomasochistic way or as means of moral teaching, it is that of the cerebral kind. Questions are asked, no clear answers are given and as a result, the Interrogated is punished. Let's say Lawrence Varnado's performance is more reminiscent of a vengeful God or perhaps a Cenobite, without the supernatural element. I am reminded of the early Nine Inch Nails home video for the Broken EP, especially the sequence for Happiness in Slavery. If you can imagine Michael Madsen from Reservoir Dogs torturing the police officer, except he's a little more of John Doe from the movie Se7en, all in the realm of psychological horror, you're getting close.

I give this film 4 1/2 Evil-Ed-Heads, shy of five ONLY because I would have love to have seen it stretched to a full-length (could be done easily with the character depth and the passionate plot) and I would like to go further with the visual effects. I'm a SFX Makeup nerd, what do you expect?

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Release Date:

2 May 2020 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Dallas, Texas, USA

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