Review of ’80s Retro Horror THE TORMENT OF LAURIE ANN CULLOM

 

The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom takes place in 1988 and follows the titular character, a sufferer of agoraphobia, as she is terrorized in her home by a masked intruder. The film stars Shannon Scott, Mark Dossett, Jason Abbott, and Jacob Bradley. Mark Dossett directed from his own screenplay.

There is a lot to admire about the movie. For starters, the ‘80s atmosphere is great and extends well beyond character wardrobes. Both the interior and exterior of the Cullom house, which obviously serves as a major location for most of the story, fits the timeframe to a T. When it comes to set decoration, the attention to detail within the home is top-notch. Viewers will be hard-pressed to spot anything that doesn’t fit within the established time period. From furniture to electronics, the look is perfect. The production goes as far as even mentioning things like current (for 1988) gas prices.

And it’s not only the ‘80s atmosphere that director Mark Dossett nails. The film takes place in Florida, and the Southern ambience comes across amazingly well on screen. Landscape shots of trees, cows, old churches, and rural country roads add a big dose of Florida/Southern climate to the story.

The main cast does a good job portraying the characters. Shannon Scott is entertaining and likable as Laurie Ann, and her character displays an appropriate arc from beginning to end. Especially impressive is Mark Dossett as the local sheriff. Dossett delivers his lines in a relaxed and natural manner that gives the character a deep level of realness. The screenplay’s rurally based dialogue is spot-on. In the final cut of the film, Dossett wisely takes time to let scenes and dialogue continue after the central crux is complete—a trick that adds to the quirkiness of the material.

Despite an oddly paced first half that might turn some viewers off, the movie is tense and, at times, appropriately horrific. The look of the killer is suitable to ‘80s-era slashers, and Dossett manages to work in a few nods to classic horror films without any of the homages coming across too heavy handed. The soundtrack is an interesting mix of ‘80s tunes, nerve-wracking instrumentals, and even gospel.

With a cast of eccentric characters, derelict rural locations, blood, murder, and a running theme of religion, The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom eventually evolves into full-blown Southern Gothic. Despite a visually and aurally arresting finale (and an opening disclaimer), I would have liked a little more closure and definite answers before the end credits rolled.

Fans of ‘80s-style horror and anyone looking for Southern Gothic entertainment could do a lot worse than checking out Mark Dossett’s The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom.

Bryce Gibson

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