If you haven’t caught Torment yet, then you still let your child sleep with stuffed animals. Jordan Barker’s film premiered at the LA Screamfest last September, and was just released on DVD this week. In the film, Katharine Isabelle and Robin Dunne plays newlyweds tortured by group of masked assailants.
Scaretissue.com is proud to present Torment’s director, Jordan Barker. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions we had about the film and about the home invasion genre. Jordan Barker is an actor turned director. Jordan studied film at York University, but graduated from Sheridan College with a degree in digital animation. His first film was 2004’s My Brother’s Keeper.
ST: First of all, it’s quite obvious that you are a huge fan of John Carpenter’s style (Halloween). What draws you to this style, and what examples of this can we see in the film Torment?
Jordan: I grew up on 80’s movies and in particular was very drawn to the genre films of that time. Nowadays, there is pressure to get as much on screen as soon as possible. The first 30 minutes are make or break for a film these days. I would also say that Carpenter was very minimal with his editing and score. Backstory is another thing that Carpenter handles really well, especially in Halloween. We know just enough to understand what is going on without following the wrong story.
ST: What makes home invasion films so much scarier than typical slasher films?
Jordan: The idea of being attacked in the place we normally feel most safe is something I find truly terrifying. At the end of the day, most of our homes are not fortified compounds, but simple illusions of safety so we can sleep at night. To shatter that illusion takes us right back to primal fight or flight survival. I think most people are terrified of that reality.
ST: The character development in Torment is outstanding. You managed to capture some very real feelings in the first act of the film regarding loss and broken homes. What was the mood like on set, and how did you inspire the actors for these scenes?
Jordan: It was very important to set up real wants and desires in our three lead characters. The idea was to see this family from three distinct points of view and have the first act serve almost like a short film. This way, the desired conclusion is just within their grasp when then the story suddenly takes a sinister turn. We worked a lot of nights and I think the lack of sleep (and caffeine) mixed with everyone’s enthusiasm for the project made for a surprisingly light mood on set. Robin Dunne, who plays Cory Morgan, is a very funny guy and has an incredible work ethic. Both he and Katy really went above and beyond for me and this project. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast. We spent a lot of time discussing the importance of the setup. That first act is where we grab or lose the audience.
ST: The killers’ masks are nightmare inducing. What inspired them?
Jordan: Those ideas were in the very first draft of the script written by Michael Foster. They were the springboard for the aesthetic and thematic material we developed during pre-production. It is often difficult to find or think of new ways to be terrifying, truthful, and in the best case scenario, iconic. We had just about every key creative on our team asking to design the look of the stuffed animals and masks. We went through several iterations, some of which looked better than others. I didn’t want them to feel like mascots. It was important that it looked like they were from real stuffed animals, and if they didn’t fit perfectly, so be it. It wasn’t about that. I give Ruth Secord a lot of credit for her commitment to making and re-making those masks right up until the first day of production.
ST: Are there any plans on a sequel?
Jordan: A few reviewers weren’t too pleased with the decision to sort of tease another chapter in the story. I never saw it as a purposeful way to set up a particular sequel, but as a way of serializing the events. Every film is a selected section of time and those characters generally exist before and after the chronology of any particular film. I thought it would be fun to tag the ending with a glimpse of where the story could go.