Dir: Hans Herbots. Belgium. 2014. 120mins
A Belgian film adapted from the second of the British novelist Mo Hayder’s series of crime novels, this transforms Hayder’s regular protagonist DI Jack Caffery into Flemish investigator Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg) and – like the recent Belgian horror film Welp (Cub) – evokes serial killer Marc Dutroux and connected Belgian paedophile scandals which add a sobering layer of real-world relevance to the contrived, yet memorably horrid policier plot of The Treatment (De Behandeling).
Director Hans Herbots and screenwriter Carl Joos (who have worked on the Spiral TV series) work up an air of Se7en-style gothic gloom in order to tighten the screws on a hero who certainly suffers more personal involvement in the case than the average movie/TV detective.
Rumpled cop Cafmeyer is haunted by the loss of his brother, who was abducted when they were children and remains missing. Still living in his childhood home, he is tormented by Ivan Plettnickx (Johan van Assche), prime suspect in that disappearance, who bombards him with contradictory confessions.
Cafmeyer and his colleague Danni Petit (Ina Geerts) are called in on a home invasion case. A married couple are imprisoned seperately for three days by an intruder who marks the home with paint thinned by human urine, and flees with their young son. After the boy is found dead in a park, the victim of sexual assault, the father (Tobo Vandenborre) and the mother (Brit Vam Hoof) tell slightly different stories about their ordeal.
The father in particular is reticent about what exactly happened during their captivity. While investigating, Cafmeyer is pestered by a jittery local eccentric who turns out to have been involved in a similar incident some years earlier … while the culprit breaks into the home of Steffi (Laura Verlinden) and Hans Vankerhove (Roel Swanenberg) and performs his appalling ritual again. Plettnickx, now terminally ill, taunts Cafmeyer with the promise of genuine revelations about his brother but also hints that he knows something about the current case.
Though there’s an early emphasis on forensic work and the piecing together of the culprit’s peculiar delusions – which have to do with his belief that an excess of female hormones in the environment have rendered him impotent – the film is more interested in very dark suspense and requires the hero to wander off on his own to track down far-flung leads about the old paedophile network and blunder into danger without backup.
Director Hans Herbots and screenwriter Carl Joos (who have worked on the Spiral TV series) work up an air of Se7en-style gothic gloom in order to tighten the screws on a hero who certainly suffers more personal involvement in the case than the average movie/TV detective. The first half of the film is satisfyingly murky and mystifying, and the upsetting plot revelations are very tactfully presented. Given that Cafmeyer finds vital clues by spending an afternoon watching a collection of child pornography videos, the film is inexplicit – but the subject matter itself (taken faithfully from the best-selling novel) may be too strong for some audiences.
The second half of the film effectively intercuts several suspense-building situations as Cafmeyer closes in on the culprit, Steffi struggles against her bonds to find out what is happening to her husband and son in another room, and the ultimate fate of Cafmeyer’s lost brother is worked out in what seems like a plot detour but is actually the spine of the film. Not an easy watch, this will still work for audiences who have become used to the brand of intense, confrontational noir that various Northern European countries have been producing on television and in film in the last few years.
Production company: Eyeworks Film & TV Drama
International sales: Be for Films, www.beforfilms.com
Producer: Peter Bouckaert
Editor: Phillippe Ravoet
Production designer: Johan Van Essche
Music: Kieran Klaassen, Melcher Meirmans, Chrisnanne Wiegel
Sreenplay: Carl Joos, based on the novel by Mo Hayder
Main cast: Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan van Assche, Laura Verlinden, Dominique Van Malder, Roel Swanenberg, Jyan Steverlynck, Ingrid De Vos