Left Bank

Faintly tedious, rather silly horror flick masquerading as a thriller.

Released in 2008, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 31 Jul 2008 by Scott Morris
Left Bank image

Belgium. Chocolates, Tintin and Poirot, as the old jokes would go. I'd rather hoped that this Belgian film, which is why I bring the matter up, would provide the nation with something else to crow about and wave in the face of smug, racist goons like myself who keep mentioning old jokes about chocolates, Tintin and Poirot. Sadly, it's pish.

I might have expected that, as it is after all starting from the disadvantage of being a horror film. Marie (Eline Kuppens) is an ambitious, driven young track runner who looks to be on track for success at the European championships before she collapses of exhaustion and is ordered to take a month off from the rigours of training. She's upset by this, but finds some solace in the arms of her recently acquired archer boyfriend Bobby (Matthias Schoenaerts), the two having embarked on a passionate affair. Marie moves out from her mother's house and in with Bobby, who lives on the left bank of Antwerp's River Scheldt, in a somewhat tired, ugly looking 70's tower block.

Now, this left bank appears to have garnered something of a bad reputation, in years past being used as a dumping ground for the city's more undesirable elements like witches and plague victims. With the witch and plague victim demographics being somewhat lessened by time's onward march, real estate developers move to reclaim the area, despite the superstitions and folk myths that have sprung up over time.

Leftbank image

To cut what is a not particularly long but certainly not particularly interesting story short, there's a Big Pit O' Evil in the basement of the tower block and bad things happen to Marie. There are certain far more layers to this film, such as the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the previous occupant of Bobby's flat, but in the end they're little more than a smokescreen to distract from the fact that despite playing the broody, psychological thriller card, in the end this film boils down to the Big Pit O' Evil playing silly buggers.

It's something of a pity, because before it starts waving its supernatural willy in the wind there's some decent filmmaking on show. Directing his debut feature, Pieter Van Hees does manage to make shots of the wooded areas look pretty creepy, and the performance from Eline Kuppens is certainly well above the average for this sort of thing. The pacing is reasonable, at least up until the point it starts to flip from trying to build tension through Bobby's increasingly intense, jealous behaviour and moving into some bullshit, Wicker Man-esque cultism in the last twenty minutes which feels like it has been accidentally edited in from a different film.

Marketed as an original, moving thriller, it's actually a just another in a seemingly endless line of shitty horror wannabes. While I concede that it's bolted together more robustly and from a higher quality of materials than most, the inescapable fact is that it's another pretty dull horror that isn't remotely scary and doesn't have any interesting plot strands to fall back on. Can we please have a moratorium on horror flick until people work out what makes them scary? Meanwhile, don't bother with this.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Pieter Van Hees
Cast list:
Eline Kuppens (Marie)
Matthias Schoenaerts (Bobby)
Sien Eggers (Bieke)
Tom De Wispelaere (Dirk)