A serial killer thriller straight from the Netherlands, Claustrofobia opens with a young boy and girl sneaking into a creepy abandoned hospital. Entering the mortuary the girl dares the shy boy to lie in one of the sealed chambers, recently occupied by the dead, in exchange for a kiss.
He willingly complies, but once inside the girl locks the door and runs away leaving the child alone and trapped, setting up an emotional trauma that will lead him to become a deranged murderer.
Flash forward many years and confident college girl Eva (Carolien Spoor) is looking at apartments to rent when she finds the perfect place in a block near the university where she studies. Dividing her time between study to become an actress and a vet, the low rent flat is perfect for her and the cute neighbour opposite more than makes up for the creepy landlord and the spying old man that she spots through the window.
However, her life takes an awful turn when she awakens in a dungeon cell chained to a bed with a camera watching her every move. She is a prisoner and her captor has a dark and disturbing plan for her that she may not survive.
Although not a terrible horror movie, the primary and most grating issue with Claustrofobia is its title, which is disappointingly misleading. A film entitled such with the opening it has should be about people being trapped in tight spaces, forced to face the worst nightmares of a claustrophobic made real, much like in the brilliant Buried (2010).
But in director Bobby Boermans film the title refers to the serial killers condition, a condition which barely seems to show itself and seems to be a cheap and lame excuse to explain away his psychosis and give the movie a catchy title.
The room in which Eva is kept in is in fact better than some flats I’ve rented, given that it’s spacious, has an en-suite shower and bathroom and if you look past the lack of daylight, stack of dead bodies and her inability to leave, it’s rent free – which is a plus.
Jokes aside, the prison in which Eva is kept leads us to the second issue with the movie, in that at its start it lacks a sense of peril and fear that is vital in horror. As mentioned, Eva’s prison is not too bad, her captor treats her well and worst of all Eva doesn’t seem that bothered at all by the situation, constantly shouting and fighting with her jailor and often getting the upper hand.
Perhaps Boermans and writer Robert Arthur Jansen were sick of the usual scream queens and wanted to give their horror a plucky and gutsy heroine. However, Eva’s complete lack of dread and panic leads the audience to relax and build up no fear towards the psycho at all.
As the film moves towards its obvious and inevitable conclusion it does get better (death by iPad anyone?) and there are more scares and violence. But this is little too late to save the movie overall.
For those looking for an exploration of the fear of small spaces Buried or The Descent are the films for you. Claustrofobia can be recommended only as a thinking man’s torture porn movie or for Netherland obsessives.