Color, 2014, 131m.
Directed by Hans Herbots
Starring Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan van Assche
Artsploitation ( Blu-ray) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Adapted from the second novel by Edgar Award winner Mo Hayder chronicling the criminal investigations of troubled cop Nick Cafmeyer (known as Jack Caffery in the British books), this Belgian thriller is very grueling and very, very dark (in every sense of the word). Here Cafmeyer (Van Rampelberg) deals with a very personal case tying to a skeleton in the closet of his own family, namely the kidnapping of his younger brother, Bjorn, when he was still a preteen.
The present day crux of the mystery involves the abduction and possible murder of an eight-year-old boy whose parents are found physically battered and gagged. The perpetrator, going under the alias of "the Troll," seems to be connected to the Cafmeyer death years before, which puts the inspector increasingly on edge as he starts to uncover what appears to be something even darker and more disturbing than we initially suspected. The original suspect in Bjorn's disappearance, Plettinckx (van Assche), has been relentlessly taunting the detective for years, and now he offers some perverse intimations of his own that might lead to a break in the case, which leads down a bleak rabbit hole that might offer no escape.
Extremely well made but highly unlikely to make the cut for an American remake in the near future, The Treatment spares the viewer almost nothing as it psychologically breaks down both the protagonist and the audience with its unsettling central theme of evil passing through generations and spreading like a cancer. There isn't anything explicitly depicted that would land this in much censorship trouble, but the approach and subject matter put this squarely in line with more famously dangerous films like In a Glass Cage, Martyrs, and A Serbian Film, both of which deal with the abuse of the young and innocent. TV director Hans Herbots keeps the film gripping for well over two hours and employs a very bleak, dimly lit aesthetic that pushes the foggy, flashlight-laced look of The X-Files and Seven to a new extreme with the screen often bathed in 90% pure darkness. Be sure to keep the lights off or down very low to get the full effect, or you'll miss quite a bit of important material.
The typically fearless Artsploitation brings this film to Blu-ray and DVD in its first English-friendly home video release (following Dutch and German editions) with the HD option offering the more satisfying experience, eking as much detail as possible out of the tricky, very challenging source material. The dim lighting and roving beams of light are handled well without any jarring compression issues, which should allay too many concerns about the 131 minutes taking up 17GB of disc space. (Since it's a scope title, a decent chunk of the screen is still allotted to static black bars.) As with the previous two Artsploitation Blu-rays, this is sold as a BD-R but is said to be the last before the switch to pressed discs. The Dutch 5.1 Dolby Digital track sounds fine enough given the very subdued nature of the feature itself, which doesn't require any major dynamic fireworks in the audio department. In the extras department you get 9 minutes of deleted scenes (with some context about where they would have originally gone, and their inclusion certainly wouldn't have hurt), an 8-minute featurette documenting the film's Belgian premiere, and trailers for this film and bonus Artsploitation titles including Der Samurai, Horsehead, Reckless, and The House with 100 Eyes.