The Treatment Review
Dark, horrific and devastating are just some of the words that could be used to describe Belgian film The Treatment (De Behandeling, 2014). While it might not make for an easy watch though, it is a brilliant and powerful film well worth your time, despite the terrified state you’ll feel yourself in after seeing it.
Based on Mo Hayder’s book of the same name, yet with the action moved from the UK to Belgium, we are immediately cast into the darkness of the tale as soon as The Treatment begins: A family are discovered imprisoned in their own home, badly beaten and close to death. And even more shocking is that the person who held them captive still has their child. On the case is Inspector Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg), who we follow as he delves deeper into this murky investigation, and who has heavy baggage of his own to deal with (what fictional law enforcement character doesn’t though?).
Shocking from the beginning until the final moments, The Treatment is a rollercoaster of a film. With a story filled with twists and turns throughout, the action is kept constantly gripping, mainly thanks to Carl Joos’ intense and superbly paced script, which makes the long running time fly by. It is also kept gripping by a darkness that invades the whole film, something that can obviously be expected in a story that deals with the heavy subjects of child abuse and paedophilia in such an upfront way. This candid viewpoint is never exploitative though, both Joos and director Hans Herbots investigating these issues fairly and thoroughly, rather than in an oversentimental or unrealistic way.
When it isn’t coming from the plot or Carl Joos’ superb script, that relentless darkness is ever present in the use of stunning cinematography. Shot in noirish hues, Herbots ensures that ominous tones invade every single frame, tinging even the most calm and serene moments with a disturbing edge. Eking out the tension of every scene, Herbots makes The Treatment just as intense and scary as any horror film.
That said, the horror doesn’t come from an excess of gore, as would often be the case in other films such as this. While there are brutal parts throughout, such as a clinical and invasive autopsy, the real horror instead lies in the things we don’t see, our minds forced to imagine exactly what is happening. It is in these moments that The Treatment particularly stands out as an incredible and convincingly real drama – moments that might make it harder to watch, but that also make this a truly exceptional film.
These instances are also enhanced by the solid lead performance from Geert Van Rampelberg as Nick, the terror playing across his face saying more than words or images ever could. Just witness the scene in which Nick discovers some nefarious videotapes. We don’t see all that he does, but his realistic and horrified reaction tells us all. His brilliant performance ably carries the story throughout and also makes emotional scenes such as this all the more impactful.
With a final, nauseating twist and a gut-punch of an ending that will chill you to the core, you’ll be reeling for days after watching this. The controversial subject matter may be off-putting to some, but The Treatment really is a thrilling cinematic watch from start to finish, despite how brutal it might be in parts. The comparisons between this and David Fincher’s films, as well as other modern noir films, will be plentiful. And yet The Treatment is so much more than that – a unique beast of Herbots’ own creation that deserves to be seen by many.