A phobia is bad enough, on its own, without other terrors to make it worse. Yes! Just a fear of going out of your house can be the worst of things to haunt you. However, imagine a situation where your home becomes the greater source of fear and danger, making horror inescapable, being inside or out, equally so. The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom, the latest film from writer/director Mark Dossett, is a nightmare thrill ride through the worst fears we have as humans, real and imagined, all the more powerful together. Taking place in 1988, it is set in the decade of its iconic style, as an homage to horror from days gone by–times well remembered by true lovers of horror.
Laurie Ann Cullom (Shannon Scott) is a woman held captive in her own home by a phobia in her mind–a fear of “wide, open spaces,” and in Laurie’s case, spaces anywhere outside her home. Agoraphobia is her jailer, but does reality, perhaps, have even greater punishments in store? With all her problems, Laurie lives with her mother out of necessity rather than choice. In her condition, someone needs to care for her, and who could be better for the job than her mother? Normally, an overprotective mother is a nuisance, merely unwelcome at best. Here, mom is a savior. A list of Laurie’s “Daily Exercises” (along with phone calls from mom) reminds her to “stand on front porch for 5 minutes, sit on back patio for 10 minutes,” and “walk to the end of driveway and touch mailbox.” (Yes! Just walk to the end and touch it; that’s all!) Imagine those as goals to reach every day! Imagine the possibilities for terror, if a single thing goes wrong! Imagine a horrific event in the mind, in a nightmare of reality or both, disrupting Laurie Ann Cullom’s fragile order! Imagine this disturbing your own mind, plus or minus a phobia!
As a bonus for us (and a curse for Laurie) is the added element of the supernatural. (Yes, this movie has a little bit everything!) That scary thing that happened to Laurie in the bed, in the night, was certainly seen from an objective point of view, leaving no room for imagination (Laurie’s or ours). Point of view is always a perfect way to tell the audience what is real, what is not, and what could be either. Here, director Mark Dossett makes good use of perspective to do exactly that, with great effect. Adding the supernatural (or so it seems) is a great way to amp up suspense, in a movie already brimming with plenty. Also added is something truly scary–something to make you wonder what’s really in that shadow you can’t quite see, and what just followed you to bed! Oh, and aren’t those noises heard while showering the worst? 😀
Shannon Scott is absolutely awesome in her role as the title character, Laurie Ann Cullom! On IMDb, the movie is listed as Scott’s only (and therefore first) role in a feature film. WOW! You would NEVER know. From the power of her performance, you’d think Scott was a veteran actor, easily! Yes! As Laurie, Scott it utterly convincing, totally natural, and never aware of the camera. I honestly felt that I was privy to a surveillance view inside her life, inside her mind, without her knowing. As a character study of Laurie, the camera is on her every expression, easily read on her face and seen in her eyes. Scott is a true master of facial expression, telegraphing emotion effortlessly, hitting the mark every time. I honestly lost track of the number of times she captivated me with her face alone, arousing empathy with a look just right to communicate the feeling. Be it fear, happiness, desperation, or pain, Scott personifies it perfectly.
Yes! Shannon Scott delivers reality in every scene, in a movie where believability is key; making fear real, she translates terror with force, making us participants rather than voyeurs only. Scott (as Laurie) is vulnerable, horrified, and panic stricken at times, yet happy, playful, and “normal” at others. With her, we feel the fear, even in the safety of our homes, on the couch, with doors locked. In a world where reality is truly worse than imagination, Scott makes the transition to terror believable. In a film where the main character is ninety percent of the story, the actor must be damn good in the role. Shannon Scott is double damn good, indeed! Her energy explodes from the screen, adrenalin rushed with authenticity! With all this, it’s no surprise that The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom was an official selection of the Freak Show Horror Film Festival 2014, where Scott won the award for “Best Actress.” For Scott, I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of many more wins to come! And yes, you can quote Space Jockey Reviews on that!
The town sheriff is played by writer/director Mark Dossett. I’m not sure what experience Dossett has as an actor, but again, the role is more than well played by him. Dossett plays it straight, giving the character the honest personality and diligence we expect from a small-town sheriff. He responds to calls from worried mothers fretting about phobic daughters, as well as he speeds to the scene of a 911 call. No call is too big or small, and everyone is equally important. Like Shannon Scott, Dossett has only The Torment of Laurie Cullom in his filmography as an actor. Again, like Scott, his performance would suggest a veteran’s list!
Yes, there’s a welcome Mayberry feel to this town, with the help of Sheriff Parks–a feel that serves as an effective contrast to the dangers that lurk there. Yes, there’s even a town mechanic who could have been Goober, with a bit more humor about his job. If he’d turned from that car in the garage and said, “I got Aunt Bee’s car in tip-top shape,” I wouldn’t have been surprised. Then again, in a movie like this, I’d be equally not surprised if he wielded a knife as well as his wrench. 😀
The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom avoids a goof that many movies make in excess, regardless of how obvious it is to audiences, if not everyone involved in production. It’s about feet–those often overlooked body parts necessary for walking and running from serial killers. Too many films include a character in distress (usually a female) barefoot, who is later, without explanation, on the run and wearing shoes–even tied when there are laces and strings. Laurie Ann Cullom begins the movie barefoot, and (because she never has time to put on shoes, and doesn’t), she just as appropriately ends the movie barefoot. Yes! Just as Laurie burst from her house in panic, I was watching for the first shot of her feet. Running through the woods, over sticks, rocks, etc. without shoes must be difficult, but it must be managed here. Alas, with reasonable adjustments, without shoes she remains. Yes! Barefoot from beginning to end is what we get, just as we should. A small point this may be to some, but a big point it is to many like me. Continuity and realism cannot be overdone, and well done it is here, consistently barefoot. Bravo! 😀
Speaking of feet, there is also an interesting focus on them throughout the movie. This occurs with various characters, as an effective element for cinematography and suspense. (I actually loved it!) Mystery is heightened by making us wonder what is happening above the foot or leg level. Tension is stretched as viewers feel just as vulnerable with a limited viewpoint, with danger abound. In some cases foot focus retains mystery about a person’s identity–particularly in the movie’s final scenes. Camera angles are also voyeuristic at times, objective from an unseen point of view, creating suspense elevated to danger; ambiguous perspectives make the viewer intrusive and complicit, uneasy as a participant. A guilty pleasure? Possibly! 😀
Related to below-the-knee perspectives, be sure to watch the movie beyond the end credits. In the style of movies today, adding intrigue after the end, perhaps for a sequel, we have such an ending here as well. Will Laurie, or maybe some other phobic victim, be tormented again? As they say, only time (and sequels) will tell. Wink, wink! 😀
Not to miss is a Risky Business style guitar-playing/lip-sync scene, featuring Shannon Scott in an explosive footloose and fancy free moment. Well worth its time in replays, you won’t want to miss it! Scott burns up the floor, the tables, the carpet, and all other flat surfaces with her guitar, shaking her head like an AC/DC rocker and Angus Young protégé. Wow! I wasn’t prepared for it; but, all the more effective it was as a contrast to the movie’s tension buildup otherwise! It also reminds us that Laurie is just a normal girl with a phobia, and more of a character with whom we can truly identify (even if not so energetically). The scene also showcases Scott’s personality (one that literally rocks), adding much more to Laurie as a movie character. I’m glad that director Mark Dossett chose to let Scott loose with this one! Why waste such potential? For an exclusive dose of Scott’s headbanging, check out the video below by Kalance Theory, with the movie’s feature song “Push.” 😀
It is impressive (if not amazing) to see how many roles were played in this film by just two of the people involved–Shannon Scott and Mark Dossett. In the end, looking at the movie’s credits, I did a double take counting the many parts played by the two. Best of all is that multiple role playing and voice-over parts were done so discreetly that I never knew until I read the credits. Scott, as well as playing Laurie Ann Cullom, also played Becky, sang the C104 Jingle, and did voice over parts for the 911 Operator, Animal Control, Janet, a store employee over the intercom, and a little girl. Scott even worked as assistant camera operator! Wow! Dossett, in addition to playing Sheriff Parks, also played Deputy Rhinehardt, Early, Mr. Morgan, the D.J, and did a voice-over part for a T.V. announcer. Wow, again! Maybe it was a strategy for saving money in a lower budget film; but, regardless of the reason, it certainly worked as well as it might have with a different person playing every part. Excellent and certainly efficient it is, with no loss of quality! Kudos for saving money under the radar, with no way to tell other than reading credits!
Brief and tragic, with a final lyrical freedom (if not spiritual) is the ironic life we all lead, one way or another. The movie’s final song poetically conveys that message well, through a forest of trees and sunlit highlights. “Down to the River to Pray” is a haunting finale for an end scene that stays in the mind like a ghost, long after the credits are over. Here, just the right song sets the movie above the ordinary, at a crossroad of choices. Spiritual and thought provoking, it finishes the movie with the perfect tone! Well done!
Will Laurie Ann Cullom overcome her fear of wide open spaces and find the courage to enjoy a life outside her home? Will her daily exercises desensitize her to the phobias of her mind? Or, will forces beyond her control–real, imagined, or supernatural–defeat her best efforts at leading a normal life? What real torment awaits her, within her own home, worse than any nightmare? Will Laurie survive to know another day, with or without fear, inside or out? Only watching the movie will tell, and doing so is highly recommended! This one comes with SJR’s rocket-launching seal of approval!
I LOVED The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom! (Notice I capitalized the emotion!) No, I’m not a sadist as a love of the title might suggest; but, watching this movie, with it’s assault on the senses and powerful poetic effect, was a horror-lover’s guilty pleasure as much as an enjoyment of 80s slasher cinema resurrected. Yes! I rarely say I love a film, but when I do, I mean it. Here, I honestly cannot say this with enough enthusiasm. The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom is now in my personal collection of films, easily occupying a place on my list of favorites. A fresh cut of horror cinema set in the 80s is here in 2014, all the better and all the more original as an homage. With everything done already, director Mark Dossett does something new!
What makes The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom a favorite film for a horror lover who’s seen it all? Simple! It’s a great film! It’s a nostalgic trip, literally as well as stylistically, with everything a good horror movie should have in any decade. It’s blood, gore, practical effects, slashers, psychological thrills and more, topped off with a quality of directing, acting, cinematography and storytelling that transcends the genre. It artfully blends the worst fears of the mind with the visceral fears of reality, finding our vulnerabilities as humans, no matter how “normal” we are. Again, in achieving this, I must give the greatest credit to the actor the camera (and the viewer) sees the most–Shannon Scott! Without her as the movie’s namesake, the torment could not have been so tormenting. Shannon Scott allowed Laurie’s phobias and fears to terrorize her as well, genuinely, from that deep place we all feel fear. Pulling it from herself, she gives it to all of us. Thanks to Scott, The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom is real, and more than a movie!
Look for interviews with Shannon Scott and Mark Dossett, in the works at SJR!
Follow Shannon Scott (Laurie Ann Cullom) on Twitter @Simplyshannon_! “Actress, Mermaid | Passionate & versatile performer who thrives on entertaining. Simple, kind, nerdy & charming lady who will never give up on her dreams!”
For a taste of “torment” you’ll love, check out the trailer below!
Last and certainly not least, here’s the original song and music video by the independent band Kalance Theory at www.KalanceTheory.com. Actor Shannon Scott puts on a singing, dancing, and guitar playing show not to miss–and likely to be played repeatedly! (Yes, Shannon has rhythm and a whole lot more, for sure!) “Push” is featured in The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom and featured on the I’m Ok EP for sale on Itunes, Amazon, Spotify and many more!
Yes! The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom gets an easy 10 Rockets from SJR!