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Fantastic Fest capsule review: The Treatment

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Already a box office hit in its native Belgium, this riveting thriller from director Hans Herbots should pick up distribution stateside, although it could be a tough sell.

Adapted by Carl Joos (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”) from Mo Hayder’s best-selling novel, “The Treatment” leads us down a frightful path that includes an underground child pornography ring and the kidnapping of entire families.

Geert Van Rampelberg gives an extraordinary lead performance as Nick Cafmeyer, a police detective who is tormented by the abduction of his brother from when they were both children. The trauma of that experience all comes rushing back to him when he’s put on a disturbing case that is eerily similar to the unsolved story of what happened to his brother 25 years earlier.

In terms of storylines, this film delves into some really dark places. For starters, the man who abducted Nick’s brother occasionally shows up on his property and also torments him by randomly sending letters that push his buttons but never fully explain what happened. While he tries to solve the new abduction, Nick never fully steps away from exploring his brother’s case. It isn’t clear at first if the two are related and there are clues dropped along the way that seem to purposefully point us in the wrong direction. As a detective he continues to obsessively explore every possible avenue to find the truth.

As a police procedural, this is so compelling that I’d love to see Herbots develop it into a series so that we can watch Nick and his team attempt to crack other cases. As a character, he’s tightly wound and extremely methodical, even when he’s breaking all the rules.

“The Treatment” is not an easy film to watch. Along with the implied sexual assault and exploitation of children, this is now the fourth or fifth film I’ve seen during the festival that features the killing of family dogs as a plot device. It’s a troubling trend, although when it comes to Fantastic Fest, it’s just one of many things that you may be disturbed by during your daily viewings.

“The Treatment” screens again at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.