Senseless (2008)

Rating: B-

Dir: Simon Hynd
Star: Jason Behr, Joe Ferrara, Emma Catherwood

Eliott Gast (Behr) is a rich and successful businessman, but that all comes to an end when he is kidnapped by persons unknown. He wakes up in a large room: initially, he is quite well-looked after, and his captor, a bearded man (Ferrara) seems affable. However, it gradually becomes clear that the video cameras that monitor him are not just there for security purposes. He is the subject of a twisted, online reality show, and will gradually be subjected to the loss of his senses, starting when his tongue is burned with an iron, destroying his taste-buds.

And it’s only going to get worse from there, Why was Eliott selected and can he do anything to convince them to let him go? There seems to be some hope, in a sympathetic member of the group (Catherwood), who tells him she agrees with their goal, but disagrees with the method being used. On the one hand, this is torture porn, but it does have a philosophy, with the violence being applied toward a particular end. There’s also a case to be made that the victim “deserves it”: we see enough about Gast’s life, in flashback, to make him more than a faceless victim. Some of it shows him in a dubious light, such as a childhood incident involving a blind kid.

But you still get the sense that, while he may be a bit of a dick, what he’s going through is mighty harsh punishment for his sins. Because the film also proves that you don’t necessarily need grand, gory gestures to make your audience shift very uncomfortably in their seats. Sometimes, all it takes is a cheese-grater, applied appropriately. It’s certainly effective, and the film does a nice job of walking a moral tightrope, painting things in shades of grey that are not normally shown that way. Things do go off the rails somewhat at the end, with a climax which I’m unconvinced makes as much sense as I’d like. However, the majority of this is nastily successful, and far smarter than many of its colleagues.