The boundary between entertainment and exploitation is one that more and more movies seem determined to test. This Belgian thriller, adapted from British author Mo Hayder’s novel, centres on a despicable plot conceit that pushes past paedophilia into more extreme territory. It’s a film built on ideas that might take days or weeks to shake loose. But is it still enjoyable to watch, or just a brutalising, senses-numbing chore? That might depend on your levels of tolerance.
Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg) is that genre staple, a cop on the edge, investigating the torture of a suburban couple and the abduction of their ten-year-old son while grappling with his own personal demons: the legacy of his brother’s unsolved kidnapping at the same age. Convinced there’s a link between the two disappearances, Nick pushes himself into ever more disturbing territory.
There’s no denying that ‘The Treatment’ is an efficient thriller: the performances are strong, the visuals are murkily beautiful and the pace is compelling. But while it does treat its subject matter with admirable graveness, it’s simply not intelligent, empathetic or artful enough to justify that horrific central idea, relying far too heavily on implausible coincidence to hold the rickety plot together.
And however effective its use of tension might be, it’s hard to overlook the simple fact that the suspense is built on monstrously obscene foundations, the whole film teetering on the brink of seriously bad taste. Approach with caution.