A drifter passing through a small town is drugged by three masked psychopaths and forced into a bizarre game of cat and mouse. He is chased through a series of more and more bizarre events until, in the end, he finds that this evening of terror has lasting consequences.
Lorraine James as Birdlady
Mel Marginet as Cabin Lady
Tyhr Trubiak as Mr. Mouse
Tempus Tormentum is one of the most tedious horror movies I have ever suffered through. Padded to the point of absurdity, simultaneously simplistic and incomprehensible, there is no entertainment to be found here. Hell, there isn’t even a story. It could easily be retitled “Character Travels From One Side of Shot to Another for Ninety Minutes: The Motion Picture”. If this were an experimental film, I could understand. But writer-director-editor-producer-hyphen James Rewucki is no Stan Brakhage. Hell, he isn’t even Gaspar Noé.
A bearded man referred to only as “Mister Mouse” stumbles into the world’s most redneck town. He is played by Tyhr Trubiak, who you’ll either feel sorry for or hate, depending on your empathy for actors in crappy films. I’ll credit Trubiak for his tenacity, (he is literally in every scene). That’s not to say his performance is good, (most assuredly it is not). Some performers can pull off the prerequisite “everyman” archetype. Bruce Campbell and Kurt Russell come to mind. There is a spark behind their eyes, a subtext that keeps you hooked, even if their actions are rote. Trubiak doesn’t have that, at least not in Tempus Tormentum. Frankly, he comes off as stoned. But I would give him a gold medal for long distance running. Then again, sitting through this dumpster fire is a marathon, so maybe only silver.
Not that the screenplay gives Trubiak much to work with. Mister Mouse is given no backstory, no revealing dialogue, and no character motivation other than basic survival. From almost moment one, he is attacked in his motel room by three psychos in creepy masks. They shoot him full of hallucinogenic drugs that never seem to wear off, and then they hunt him. Along the way, ghosts (I think) accost Mister Mouse from the netherworld. They whisper the phrase “every dead thing has thoughts” over and over again. All of this comes off as muddled, trite, and boring. When you’re not given a reason to care about your protagonist, you simply don’t.
The movie does have some redeeming qualities, in particular the cinematography. The eerie shadows, gliding steadicams, and arcing aerials show an aesthetic precision. Wide-angle lenses are used to distort interior spaces, creating tension and paranoia. A welcome stylistic flourish, though not particularly original. The psychedelic ending is tremendously well edited, with an incomparably scary sound mix. These are the proficient details that should not be glossed over, even if ultimately they serve a big, hollow nothing.
The special effects work by James Ferreira is also noteworthy, as is Laura Mackay’s makeup. As the “story” takes a turn for the surreal, the body horror is ramped up to Cronenberg levels of indulgence. On its face that might seem satisfying, but director Rewucki doesn’t temper the style. Everything is rapidly edited. The angles are far too close on the practicals. It makes for an unnecessarily disorienting experience, one which instantly takes you out of the moment. That is, if you were in the moment to begin with. Ferreira does great work, but damned if Rewucki will let you see it. Mackay makes a black, segmented bodysuit for one of the ghouls, and it fares much better on screen. But really, we’re talking peanuts here. It’s pathetic.
The secondary performances are drab across the board. As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, Mister Mouse runs and runs…and runs. He spelunks into one weirdo after another. None of them lift a finger to help him. No motivation is given, other than “that’s just how we do things around here.” It’s a vivid example of the reductiveness strangling modern horror films. When Deliverance gave us psycho rednecks forty years ago, it was scary because it was fresh. Now it’s a cliché, reheated in a dollar store microwave. The same could be said about crazy, Bible- thumping Christians, (yes, they’re in the movie too). Does Stephen King even use that trope anymore? If you’re not going to give us something new, at least create some depth. Tempus Tormentum does neither.
is currently in limbo in terms of distribution. It may do a limited release, a roadshow, or just end up in some cobwebbed corner of VOD. Not that it matters, really. If you’re in the mood for Rob Zombie-light, than Rewucki’s film will provide your fix. But there is too much mood, not enough viscera. So it won’t be rewarding in that sense either. Really, it’s not rewarding in any sense. Perhaps I expected too much, (solid storytelling, good acting, etc). Who needs that balderdash when you can do a 10K, without ever leaving your seat!