Action, 98 Minutes, 2011
The so-called “torture porn” sub-genre of splatter films, epitomized in the modern era by the “Saw” [IMDB] franchise but predating it by decades, is difficult to execute correctly. The point that most low-budget attempts forget is that it isn’t the actual pain being inflicted to the characters. Focusing on purely the physical is, as films go, crude and ultimately boring.
The best examples of the genre are psychologically disturbing. They create diabolically inventive methods to attack their characters while, very importantly, allowing their characters at least some freedom of choice. This is why they’re so effective: they engage the intellect of the audience with the mechanics of the situation and then their emotions by forcing them to consider how they would respond in the same situation. The best movies of any genre allow us to see their characters at their extremes whether it be love, anger, determination or, this case, pain.
The premise here requires a little more suspension of disbelief than most. Apparently some very specific chemicals are required for some new kind of illegal drugs. These chemicals are only produced in the brain under extreme pain. To collect them our hidden villains kidnap people, knock them out and fit them with hypodermic harnesses than collect the secretions (into a “vial” – get it?!) The group is locked in what appears to be an old house and told that they must work together over 22 hours to collect a certain amount of the fluid – tracked wirelessly by their harnesses and displayed as a percentage bar on a central screen.
(Of course just plain torturing these people outright would provide the needed chemical much faster and with significantly less risk but then we’d have a very different movie. We also need to forget that there are plenty of ways to inflict excruciating pain without actually creating permanent damage. Just go with it, okay?)
The majority of the movie revolves around the interactions of the victims as their time slowly runs out. We see sacrifice, fear, grim determination and even glee. The actual techniques used to inflict pain are a little random and unimaginative (quite possibly due mostly to budget constraints) but the performances are actually quite good for the most part. The limited freedom provided to the characters really allows the audience’s “what if” engines to run rampant. If forced, how would you choose to inflict unbearable pain upon yourself?
Like many movies in this range it does lose some steam as it winds down to a predictably ridiculous ending. For the greater part however “Vile” is actually a disturbingly engaging experience that rivals productions with far larger budgets. The genre’s definitely not for everyone but for those that appreciate the underlying meaning of these films it’s a solid addition.