Elliott (Jason Behr) is an American businessman working in Britain on bringing together a company merger. Following a working meal with a couple of Eastern-European acquaintances, he takes a stroll outside his plush restaurant settings to ring his partner back in the States. He barely manages to tell her the time - it's 3am in Blighty - before a black hood is thrown over his head and he's abducted from the streets.

When he next awakens, Elliott finds himself in a huge, largely empty white room. A bed waits in one corner; a CCTV camera is set up in another to film him from above. Elliott attempts to smash the frosted windows on an adjacent wall with the room's sole chair - to no avail.

Receiving no response from his numerous addresses to the camera, Elliott decides to keep himself sane by exercising. Eventually though, he can't fight the need for sleep any longer. When he next wakes, a masked man with a foreign accent - the appropriately named Blackbeard (Joe Ferrara) -offers him a cigarette and tells him he's being "punished" for America's imperialism. "We are making an example of you", he's told.

But who are "we"? And why have they chosen Elliott?

These are questions that will need to remain unanswered, at least for the time being. For Elliott has several long, hard weeks ahead of him - and this terrorist organisation plans to broadcast his suffering online, gradually robbing him of each of his senses.

The twist, it transpires to him before too long, is that those viewing his suffering via the Internet - conducted under the watchful gaze of masked 'nurse' Nim (Emma Catherwood) - can stop his torment if they bid enough online to fund the extremists' next anti-establishment plot.

On paper, SENSELESS sounds like just another awful torture-porn film. Certainly, in its opening minutes, I feared the worst - all the signs of another no-budget SAW knock-off were in place. But, as it further unfolded, I was pleasantly surprised to find an intelligent, thoughtful and therefore thought-provoking film that used violence as a tool of its story, rather than a point of shallow titillation.

Based on the novel by Stona Fitch, SENSELESS was adapted for the screen by its director Simon Hynd. Predominantly working on documentaries and, more recently, TV series' such as 'Summer In Transylvania' and 'Half Moon Investigations', Hynd is highly adept at constructing tightly edited drama with an edge of realism that's as unnerving as it is engrossing.

Further aided by strong performances - especially from Behr (THE TATTOOIST), who excels through emotions of confusion, fear, anger, resolve - and an intriguing political subtext, Hynd's film aims higher than merely wanting to sate the gorehounds. It wishes to comment on the unrest and paranoia that exists within contemporary East-West relations, and does this well.

But this doesn't mean the film isn't also brutal - it is. Rather, the violence is given a purpose and, given Behr's feral reactions, is quite horrifying in its matter-of-fact unfolding.

SENSELESS is, ultimately, a satisfying film of modest origins, impressive design and noble intentions. It's pretty harsh too.

The film is presented in an adequate 16x9 widescreen presentation that looks great during more colourful scenes, and a little less impressive when coping with the high contrast of Elliott in the white room. All told though, it's a relatively clean and sharp rendering.

English audio is presented in 2.0 and is stable throughout.

Bonus features are interesting.

They kick off with a decent commentary track from Hynd, who has an agreeable manner about him and adds a highly listenable Scottish twang to proceedings. He's an intelligent man and keeps things engaging throughout.

Deleted scenes also come furnished with optional director's commentary. These last for 9 minutes.

1 minute of outtakes follow, offering a lighter side to the grisly action - it's good to see so much fun being had on such a grim set.

The film's original theatrical trailer runs for just over a minute and is an effective, fast-paced effort that sells the movie well.

A longer trailer, billed as a "Sizzle Reel Trailer", clocks in at 101 seconds in length. It's not as manic as the former, but is just as stylish and proficiently put together.

VIRUS is a grimy 6-minute short from Hynd, filmed back in 2002. It makes interesting use of sound and provides some striking visuals despite a clearly shoestring budget. Intriguingly, it also deals with the theme of Internet-related violence.

Finally, we get trailers for BAD DAY, SNUB, TEMPTATION, FATED, ARC, BRAIN DEAD and RUNNING IN TRAFFIC. If you've ever seen any of these, they may give a false impression of what you can expect from SENSELESS - it is a lot more accomplished than any of the other films mentioned.

The DVD opens with an animated main menu page. From there, an animated scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

SENSELESS is a beguiling addition to the post-Millennial British horror canon, and comes on a highly serviceable DVD from ISIS Ltd.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by I.S.I.S. Ltd
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review