In Antwerp, Marie is a world-class runner at 22, with a general air of discontent. She learns she has chronic fatigue syndrome and must stop training for a month. At the track she's met Bobby, an archer, and they start a relationship. Bobby invites her to stay with him while recovering: he lives at West Bank, three tall blocks of flats built on an isolated plot. Marie's mom doesn't like the arrangement, Marie is soon vomiting, and she learns that the previous tenant in Bobby's flat disappeared leaving notes about the building's cellar and photos of the area before West Bank was built. The missing woman's boyfriend visits one day. What's going on?Written by
My beloved Belgium country hasn't got much of an impressive history when it comes to horror cinema, but at least there have always been enthusiast and visionary directors that tried to make a difference. Back in the 70's there was Harry Kümel (whose movies "Malpertuis" and "Daughters of Darkness" are highly desired and acclaimed cult-collector items nowadays), then there's Jan Verheyen (who also hosts horror movie screenings on Belgian TV) and since recently we have Pieter Van Hees. Van Hees is an extremely devoted fan of the genre, as it is illustrated in his absurdly grotesque and engrossing short movie "Black XXX-Mas" as well as in this slow-brooding and atmospheric thriller "Linkeroever". The title literally means Left Bank and refers to a very well known living area in Antwerp. It's a reputedly "troubled" area since the Middle Ages already, with dark historical secrets and mysterious inhabitants, and thus the ideal setting for a sinister story. Marie is a young and talented but introvert athlete who suddenly falls ill and gets forced to cancel her participation in a prominent European tournament. She moves in with her new boyfriend Bobby and, mostly out of boredom, begins to investigate the mysterious unsolved disappearance of the previous tenant. I don't want to reveal too much about the complex and extremely unsettling story, but the script hints at horrific elements such as human sacrifices, reincarnation, pagan rites, excommunication, witches and super massive black holes. "Linkeroever" is basically a typical folklore tale, but set in a present day social environment and decorated with style & content elements that are borrowed from similarly-themed international horror classics like "The Wicker Man", "Blood on Satan's Skin" and "Rosemary's Baby". Pieter Van Hees generates a depressing and constantly grim atmosphere through simple tricks (autumn weather conditions, pauperized living areas ) and patiently takes the time to unfold the story and draw detailed character portraits. The denouement isn't that difficult to predict especially not when you have experience with occult horror but it nevertheless evokes a handful of genuine chills and nightmarish afterthoughts. Considering the fairly low budget and overall tense ambiance of the film, you shouldn't hope for a lot of bloodshed, though. Van Hees could rely on a professional crew as well. The photography, editing and musical guidance are damn close to brilliant and, following good old Belgian traditions, the film contains several dared but tasteful and quintessential sex sequences. Eline Kuppens is simply fantastic in her screen debut and she carries the entire motion picture like it's the easiest job in the world. She's a natural beauty with the talent and perseverance to make it even in the international film industry. Kuppens receives excellent support from the handsome young actor Matthias Schoenaerts and a couple of Flemish TV-screen veterans like Marilou Mermans, Frank Vercruyssen and Sien Eggers. Recommended for anyone who can speak the language and fundamental viewing for all Belgian film freaks.
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