The death of innocence is perhaps the cruellest and most devastating crime of all, and as such depictions of such a heinous corruption are treated in cinema with both aggressive and tender examinations. Hans Herbot’s thriller The Treatment, based on the novel by Mo Hayder, falls somewhere in between the two emotional drives, creating a film that too often feels played down the middle and conventional rather than a boldness promised in fleeting glances.

Inspector Nick Cafmeyer is confronted with a disturbing case of imprisonment, abduction and abuse involving a nine year old boy, a case that ignites the spark of a dark episode in Cafmeyer’s life. As a young boy, his brother was abducted, disappearing without a trace. A sex offender, Plettinckx, was questioned but released with no further evidence coming to light. Over the years, Plettinckx has continued to haunt Cafmeyer by harassing him through countless letters. Now, with another young boy’s fate in the balance, Cafmeyer will do anything it takes to take down the persons responsible, even against his best judgement, and find the truth…one that might be too horrible to comprehend.

As is the case with such a taboo and emotional subject, The Treatment is a film of dark tones, narratively and cinematographically. The creeping narrative slowly moves the audience through the world of Cafmeyer, tainted by the events of his life, his perspective hanging over every scene as if the void of his young brother is sucking the film into the resulting vortex. This conveyed visually by the prominent use of shadow and minimal lighting, casting intense shadows across the faces of the characters as they investigate and the victims once they are confronted by the villainous force of the film; this is a sombre film, and the dank, almost dull images that build throughout the film as Cafmeyer moves ever closer to the truth, convey an atmosphere of all-encompassing dread and filth extremely well. However, at times, this visual palate, key imagery and intense police procedural narrative do feel as if they are overly inspired by David Fincher’s masterwork of serial killer cinema, Seven. The villian keeps notebooks, filled with uncontrolled scribbles and the ramblings of a determined psychopath; he takes photographs of his victims in the moments of torment, processing them in a dark room; and in one of the film’s most powerfully grotesque moment, keeps a tank filled with urine that his clothes soak within. The similarities are clear, and are not favourable, as The Treatment’s efforts to connect the sinister force of the film to physical filth and waste is not nearly as powerful as Seven’s perverse and pervasive artistic rendering. Ultimately, it feels inferior and spurious because of its clear comparison. The film is unquestionably held together by the quality of Geert Van Rampelberg in the lead role of Nick Cafmeyer; he fills the character with a volatile tension between blistering rage and steely determination. You can see the battle being fought behind his eyes, and leaves the audience on the edge as they ask themselves the lengths he will go as the demons drive him.

While the narrative unfolds nicely, it does have problems, often feeling too generic (the cop with demons in his past and an ‘above the law’ attitude seeks out a monster only he can stop) and caught in between high emotion and following the rigours of investigation. As a result, the film sags in the middle, the slow and menacing build up turns into a crawl as it loses momentum, and even throws in one twist too many, one that smacks of disappointing melodrama. Luckily, as the film pushes ever closer to the conclusion, it is able to find its footing sufficiently again, leading to a climax which stands as the film’s highlight, including one scene of voyeurism that is absolutely horrifying, and brings the realism and horror together in a satisfying manner.

The Treatment is an accomplished, well-made drama which channels a sinister horror born of a reality far more pervasive and evil than that of nightmare. However, it is also one that’s never elevated above procedural conventions, due to inconstancy and momentum issues. Solid, with moments of truly disturbing quality, it’s a dark film that is perhaps swallowed up by its own darkness, unable to find a distinctive identity from within the dank depths of its bitter world.

Frightfest Glasgow review: The Treatment
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk