Before films like Happy Birthday to Me and the myriad of other typical 80’s slashers, there was Robert Hartford-Davis’ ghost story, proto-slasher, The Black Torment. Heavily structured on the gothic style made famous by Hammer Films, this 1964 film has a twist ending, which would later be emulated a countless number of times in the horror genre.
After spending three months in London with his new bride, Lady Elizabeth, Sir Richard Fordyke has returned home to the Fordyke estate. Upon his return, there are strange rumblings from the townspeople, accusing the lord of heinous acts of murder, rape, and torture. As victims begin to pile up, it seems more and more that the Fordyke house is haunted by the spirit of Sir Richard’s first wife, Lady Anne, and that other supernatural occurences are really to blame for all of these brutal acts.
I am not the biggest fan of these old British horror films, but I like to revisit them from time to time to remind myself how far the horror genre has come throughout the years. I am glad that there are studios like Redemption Films that continue to re-release these films remastered, for new fans to discover and enjoy. Without the new DVD release of this 60’s film, I am sure it would have gone right under my radar completely.
Although The Black Torment is rather tame compared to today’s genre films, there is still quite a bit to enjoy here. The acting was done really well and the story itself is very enthralling. It is heavily based on the supernatural and ghosts, but it is definitely one of the earliest displays of the slasher subgenre I’ve seen to date. An unknown person is killing off the townspeople — This would become the basis for almost every slasher film to ever come out and it is safe to say, it will forever be the formula. There is no doubt in my mind that without Robert Hartford-Davis’ work on this production, a lot of our favorite 80’s slashers would have turned out very differently.
If you’re a fan of old school gothic horror and are interested in films that paved the way for movies like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, look no further than The Black Torment. You can purchase a copy of the film from Redemption Films/Kino Lorber’s official website.
I give this movie 3 family bibles out of 5.