Fantastic Fest: THE TREATMENT Is Grueling, Powerful Stuff

Rough, harrowing - you're going to need therapy after this treatment.

If you see people looking glum at Fantastic Fest, it’s likely that they just came out of a screening of The Treatment. It’s a truly incredible film but it is positively grueling to get through, and audiences are guaranteed to have a visceral reaction to it.

This joins a list of powerful but emotionally taxing films like Requiem for a Dream, Irreversible, or The Act of Killing, in that it’s a powerful piece of art that you should absolutely experience, but perhaps just once. It’s not exactly the kind of film that plays well in fests - any film you see afterwards is going to have to lift your spirits up, and if you watch it at the end of the day you risk ruining your after party. A lot of people will be rocking themselves to sleep after this one - it’s the kind of film you’re going to mull over for hours (if not days) afterwards. Leave it to the Belgians to be the one to adapt Mo Hayder’s critically acclaimed bestseller.

In it, inspector Nick Cafmeyer is investigating a missing child from a possible serial molester, one with perhaps the sickest MO the department has been privy to. He likes to find families, tie up the mother and father, and apparently have their way with the kid over the course of a weekend before taking him away. Cafmeyer is committed to solving this case but he isn’t exactly the most stable man for the job due to his personal history. See, when he was a child his brother was kidnapped by a man, and was never seen again.

Making things worse the suspect, the neighbor to the house Cafmeyer grew up in and still resides, likes to torment him for the years of trials and suffering he had to endure. He was ultimately acquitted but being accused of kidnapping a child is not something you can just shake off.

Cafmeyer is still distraught over the loss of his brother, still lamenting that he couldn’t have done something to save him and haunted by the lack of knowledge over the case. He obviously takes a very personal interest in this new case, which becomes something else when he starts to suspect that the two cases may be connected, and that his neighbor may be involved. Of course you’ll constantly have to wonder - is he on to something here or is he just insane with guilt, finally breaking after all these years? How much of this is in his head? And is the world really as dark and fucked-up as it’s portrayed in this film?

A cop with a personal stake in a case has certainly been done before but rarely as well as in this film. The performances are incredible and the pace of the film certainly doesn’t let up, each new twist and turn in the case keeping you glued to the screen, even while you want to pry your eyes away from the awful things happening on it.

You’ll want to track The Treatment down, but just make sure to mark off a night where you’re not doing anything to experience it.