Vile review

Vile. This is how many film fans would describe so-called torture porn. Indeed, being 'wrong' in the right way is the challenge meeting director Taylor Sheridan's team behind Vile, which integrates a little humanity into the blood and by-the-numbers soul searching that pervade this sub-genre. It’s all the better for it.

Vile’s story is roughly based on the Harvard University's Milgram experiment. The experiment was started in the wake of the Nazi regime of World War 2 and aimed to test whether ordinary people would be willing to torture each other to death if an authority figure gave them permission to do so. Vile’s situation is slightly removed from this, but in a way that ups the dramatic ante. A group of people are kidnapped and sealed in a house in which a woman on a video screen tells them they must torture each other enough to hit targets on brain chemicals caused by their agony, after which they will be set free. It sounds rather like the bastard offspring of Saw squared, but this film offers glimpses of ingenuity.

The camera style, lighting and script in the first few scenes serve to make the viewer hyper-aware of, yet desensitised to, the idea of the body itself. Loving shots linger gently over soft, long fingertips that we can guess will be shattered and broken. We see the touch but we’re not meant to feel it. It makes us gore ghouls hunger for the action while forcing us to see that the film is greater than its effects, which are understated yet undeniably gruesome.  

Sure enough, while some of the acting is dubious and characters such as the comedy surfer dude don’t initially help us to take film seriously, much of the acting, particularly from the ladies, is  impressive. You begin to care about the characters because of the way they try and tackle the situation. You want them to show the variety of emotions they feel – it is wonderfully, spitefully vicious as well as sensitive in places. You want them to win because they are trying, even if some of the plot points they must plod through are more hackneyed than a rusty razorblade in a leg.

Vile’s photography, heart and gore make it an interesting addition to the torture porn genre. It nails its victims' blind panic and throbbing fury. What’s more, we feel the gore more because we care – even hardened fright film fans will struggle to watch some simple but very effective, vile scenes. Just don’t expect to be able to handle pliers any time soon after watching.

Official Site
Vile at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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