Filipino-American helmer Ian Gamazon had a breakout with 2005’s “Cavite,” in which he also starred as a man forced to commit terrorist acts by his family’s kidnappers. Likewise edgy and intense, belated follow-up “Living in Seduced Circumstances” is far less likely to travel widely, because this time Gamazon’s considerable skill is deployed in service of an extended torture-porn riff that stubbornly refuses to deepen in terms of character or thematic insight, despite impressive stylistic command.
We meet heavily pregnant young Vietnamese woman Minh (Quynn Ton) as she drives drugged captive Mr. Thanh (Long Nguyen) to an isolated forest chalet. (Pic was shot in Yosemite, Calif.) When he awakens, bound and gagged, Minh explains they met eight months ago (“You had a good time”), although the whole truth about their shared past doesn’t emerge until much later, by which point the middle-aged man has been bludgeoned, burned, arrow-shot and generally tormented. Gamazon has endless strategies with which to diversify the sadistic monotony: animation, heavy filtering, incongruous soundtrack choices, even a shadow-puppetry interlude. But all this aesthetic bravado fails to lend the hardworking thesps or the barely-there narrative the desired allegorical gravity.