The Treatment DVD Review

A husband and wife, Cindy and Alex Simons, are discovered bound and gagged in their home, where they have been held hostage separately for several days without food and water. Their young son, Robin, is missing and Alex is unaccountably reticent about his days held prisoner. When Robin’s small, lifeless body is found, some days later, Inspector Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg, seen last year in the acclaimed The Broken Circle Breakdown) discovers evidence that does not add up, questions with no answers and victims and witnesses who seem unwilling to help the investigation.

The only people, it seems, willing to speak to the police are the local children, all of whom tell a story of a mysterious “troll”, who watches while they sleep and from whom no one is safe.

Nick, meanwhile, is tormented by his neighbour, Ivan Plettinckx (Johan van Assche), a detestable old man apparently responsible for the disappearance of Nick’s brother Bjorn when they were children. Over the years Plettinckx has sent letter after letter to Nick, hinting at Bjorn’s fate but always with a different story (dead… sold into sex slavery in Amsterdam… now a vicious paederast himself).

When another family is taken hostage by the seemingly bestial “troll”, unmissed by friends and neighbours who believe they are on holiday in France, the story grows darker and more twisted by the minute.

The film has been referred to as Nordic noir, no doubt to invoke the successful run of high-quality “Scandi-noir” literature, television and film that has emanated from northern Europe in recent years, but in fact it is a Belgian production, the dialogue Flemish. Director Hans Herbots has done something rather unusual in making The Treatment: the film is based on a novel by British mystery writer Mo Hayder, and such resettings and adaptations are more usually the province of Hollywood. But the adaptation is inspired: dark, brutal and thoroughly faithful to the text (with only a couple of very minor alterations), it casts Flanders in place of London. This is also a narrative Hollywood probably wouldn’t touch; too nuanced, too harrowing, too psychologically complex, even the likes of David Fincher would find it tough to make.

Van Rampelberg, playing Cafmeyer, is superb: both tough and vulnerable, he is intelligent but frustrated by his inability to see more than people are willing to show. The further complication of his personal quest to discover what became of his brother means that a case such as the “troll” becomes personal for him. His impatience is accompanied by survivor guilt, anger and grief. Nick is a rounded, faceted character with whom one wholeheartedly identifies. “If you’re taking the audience on a journey to Hell,” as Herbots told Screen Daily at Glasgow FrightFest, “you want a nice guy to go along with you.”

The rest of the cast is excellent – Ina Geerts as Nick’s partner, Danni Petit; Michael Vergauwen as Robin’s loner swimming teacher Chris Gommaer; Laura Verlinden as Steffi Vankerkhove – but Van Rampelberg, appearing in what feels like almost every scene, is the main focus throughout.

The Treatment is a truly tough watch, both chilling and tragic in equal amounts. This is not a cheap and cheerful slasher movie to be taken lightly, but a harsh and complex modern noir that lingers long after the lights have come up, no comfortable resolution in sight. But for those with a passion for the dark, the strangely beautiful and the psychologically intricate, it is immensely rewarding.

About The Author

Katherine hails from South Africa, where she subsidised her uncompleted Masters in Film Studies by trying to persuade students there was more to film than the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg. Her portfolio of film criticism includes film column “The Maguffin” for iafrica.com (where the controversial “What Could a Nice Girl Like Me Have Against Forrest Gump?” caused quite a stir), a year as DVD Review editor for FHM and a lifetime of utter, unrelenting geekdom. Passionate about film in its many forms, she has a particular fondness for the Marx Brothers and David Cronenberg, and a DVD collection that takes up half her lounge.

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