Let me say this right away: The Treatment is an incredibly upsetting watch. This Belgian film, based on the novel of the same name by British author Mo Hayder, takes you down some routes that are darker and deeper than anything I’ve ever seen in any film.
Yeah. In any other film. And I’ve seen plenty of screwed up movies. Let’s be precise; this is not the type of horror/thriller about some over the top, implausible boogie man killing people in ridiculously gratuitous ways, rather this is a film about people who are irrevocably mentally ruined. It’s about the crime a person like that ends up committing.
Our protagonist Nick Cafmeyer is a haunted policeman. Early into the film we find out that his brother was abducted by a paedophile when they were children. He was never recovered and recently the presumed perpetrator (who was let go due to insufficient evidence) is writing Cafmeyer letters, and turning up at his home, taunting him. Herein we have suspect number one.
The Treatment does a reasonable job of throwing up the red herrings, one thing which really typifies this genre, and makes for the reason I don’t tend to watch many – but the pay-off for the exterior facts regarding why these characters have ended up the ‘red-herrings’, and are under suspicion at all, is quite surprising. I can’t say more than that, it will give things away. I’ll just stop by saying that a couple of twists throughout The Treatment really succeed in pulling the film into far darker territory. And it’s pretty damn jet-black without these extra plot-points.
After about the midway point of the Treatment, it does however lose much of its core connection; Cafmeyer’s motivation is cast into the background, which suggested to me that the Treatment’s script is slightly underwritten in this sense. For me, this cast doubt on the necessity of the film winding its way into ever darker territory; I did wonder if such darkness was truly necessary for this to be the film it is; essentially a routinely formed thriller which doesn’t break any new ground, aside from having this truly despicable crime that the plot-points work themselves out around.
There’s nothing new in that respect; and there are a number of cliches along the way; you have visits to the morgue, the angry protagonist with personal involvement punching a door, and some sequences wherein major plot advancements are drawn from meagre information.
At times the Treatment does fail to maintain suspense. As a relatively low budget film, it occasionally looks a bit cheap, too, and I suppose this does diminish some of its dramatic power in contrast to a higher budget film of the same ilk such as Se7en (David Fincher, 1995).
It is, however, saved by its decent enough performances and the plot, which moves along with enough purpose, and has its own sense of grip in that it elicits a genuine emotional response; you really end up feeling hatred for whoever the perpetrator may be, and this is something that very few movies are capable of achieving.
The Treatment is a hard watch. I can’t say that I enjoyed sitting through it, but I very much admired its power, and the unflinching bravery in the depths it plumbs. It’s not even the kind of dark thriller that has a silly romantic sub-plot thrown in. It goes all-out, and even the sub-plots that go by the wayside have a strong chill-factor to them.
Although at times it doesn’t quite feel as if The Treatment has sufficient intellectual heft to justify the genuinely haunting things it details, it will undoubtedly leave a bleak enough impression upon the viewer for that not to matter. Conceptually, I cannot think of anything more horrendous. I really can’t.