April 17, 2018 Tempus Tormentum (Movie Review)
“Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth,” a seeming proverb reads, curiously scrawled on a diner chalkboard where one may instead see the daily special. Truth is a strange concept in a world populated by human beings defining their realities subjectively. In Tempus Tormentum, available on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 on multiple digital platforms through Terror Films, one can go mad attempting to discern this truth.
It is in this fog of mystery that Mr. Mouse (Tyhr Trubiak: Faces in the Crowd 2011, Curse of Chucky 2013) finds himself. Mouse, a drifter, crosses three men at this aforementioned diner. They proceed to don horrible masks and terrorize Mouse throughout the night, first breaking into his motel room and shooting him up with some kind of drug.
Tempus Tormentum only grows more bizarre from there. Director James Rewucki (Aegri Somnia 2008, Green City 2011), who also wrote and shot the film, has a sense for creating a moody and strange atmosphere. Cool blues and hazy violets haunt the one-horse town where Mr. Mouse struggles with his psychotic pursuers. Night here has a psychedelic vibe, but it is more bad acid than magic mushrooms.
Rewucki really takes advantage of his locations too. Rotting, rusty infrastructure fills the ghostly town. It feels abandoned despite the presence of a few colorful locals. Rewucki also relies on imagery within his world to tell the story. The dialogue is sparse in Tempus Tormentum, suggesting a confidence that viewers willing to take the dive may discover a truth or two hidden underneath the thriller’s surface. That is definitely Rewucki’s goal. He wants audiences to get lost in the film. The story, somewhat thin, mostly just follows Mr. Mouse as he tries to get away from his masked adversaries. Tempus Tormentum more resembles a fever dream or a psychedelic trip. This is not a film with a traditional narrative structure.
Take the main character’s name: Mr. Mouse. He is not much more than a sketch. There are hints of what he has on his mind, but for the most part he is a man in a state of peril. There is no real sense of what the “cheese” is for Mr. Mouse in this maze other than escape. It is a primal urge, but nothing much more than that. The film is not a character study, though one interpretation the film certainly encourages is the idea his terror is a figment of Mouse’s drug-addled mind.
Tempus Tormentum is an exercise in extreme micro-budget filmmaking. A grand total of six people were on the crew behind the scenes. Some of them acted in the film. The production value is a testament to the creativity of Rewucki, his crew, and his actors. Is it a perfect film? No. Its willingness to veer from a strict three act structure may divide audiences. But it is self-aware. Mouse’s tormentors, looking kind of like Slipknot rejects, drive a car with license plates marked “ABSURD.” There is a darkly comic tone running through the story that is both welcoming and off-putting.
Overall, Tempus Tormentum is not particularly horrific and sometimes it can feel a little meandering. That being said, Rewucki’s film has some good things going for it. It shows off some great moody lighting and the film’s ending is appropriately bonkers. It is also not afraid to take some chances. For that, CrypticRock gives Tempus Tormentum 3 out of 5 stars.