John Hatchett, a psychiatrist, has been kidnapped and tied to a chair by an old patient he once sent to a mental institution. The patient is trying to get answers from John by keeping him for days and putting him through torture and starvation, in hopes that he will come to his senses and tell him what he wants to hear.
The torture movie genre isn't that easy to keep fresh. Unless you go all out crazy with it like Trent Haaga did with "Chop", it's likely people will have experienced it all before. Like a slasher movie, the torture movie needs to do certain things to live up to the greats (though in torture it is hard to say which these "greats" actually are). The Irish film "Fractional" does not reinvent the genre, but it does play it very cool, and takes its time before it even reaches a drop of blood. It's not physical torture as much as it is psychological torture and playing mind games with the victim and the viewers.
Malcolm Deegan's torture venture is set in a dusty old warehouse where no one will disturb or hear the cries of the victim. The victim, John Hatchett, is a psychiatrist who once sent a man to a mental institution, but unfortunately for him the patient had a few personal reasons to seek him out and torture him for the truth. In what can only be described as a series of twists and tricks, both on the audience and John Hatchett, we're slowly finding out why they are both there. Mostly driven through dialogue and flashbacks, we find out about the loss of John Hatchett's wife many years back, a love affair of his, and exactly how this maniac comes into all of it.
There isn't much in terms of physical torture at all in this, and it doesn't take long to understand that so it's not a bad thing at all. The movie slowly unfolds the backstory of our characters and at times it is really fun because they manage to twist it several times over, but only a few times does it feel like a twist too much. This is still pretty impressive, since movies that keep coming up with new twists usually end up failing hard, but "Fractional" is saved by its pace and that it never goes over-the-top. I wasn't too happy about where it went in the last few minutes, but that part is also essential to piece it all together. I have a few ideas how it could have worked out better, but I have no interest in spoiling the movie any more than I already have. It's not a bad ending, just one of the few times I think a twist less or at least an explanation more could have worked in its favor.
Its a vehicle mostly for Desmond Daly as John Hatchett and Peter O'Toole as the patient, David Crowe, and they do a solid job keeping it interesting. I can't deny that it could have worked as a 70-ish minute movie for me, but that's personal preference because even though this plays it slow, it's still belongs within the torture/kidnapping genre, and it has been overplayed to me. But as I was saying, the two leads drive the movie well, they keep their characters believable. Peter O'Toole was especially good as the everyday-looking mad man with a sinister grin.
"Fractional" seperates it a bit from the regular torture flicks through its pace and for keeping it psychological above all else, but the genre is still in a terminal state. Its location and stale tone and lighting through the majority of the movie kind of make it a long movie to sit through at times, but luckily they give us a few breaks in the flashbacks (which included some of my favorite parts). It's still a fun psychological indie flick with many tricks up its sleeves, and for that reason alone it makes for a worthy watch. Undoubtedly some people will really love it, it's an admirable effort and Malcolm Deegan kept balancing on some risky threads but usually came out on the right side. My personal preference comes into play still, as I am not a big fan of the current state of the torture films, but don't let that keep you away.