MPI // 2009 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 18th, 2009
History is written in blood.
Our Belgian friends serve up a unique and atmospheric horror tale. It may not be the revelation the disc-case accolades decree it to be, but Left Bank deserves a look from any serious horror fan.
Left Bank tells the story of Marie (Eline Kuppens), a professional runner who succumbs to a weird infection, forcing her to retire indefinitely. Meanwhile, she meets a guy with whom sparks immediately fly, and the two begin a hot and heavy love affair. Marie eventually moves in -- but almost immediately senses things might be amiss in the apartment.
Turns out, her new digs are square in the middle of lore-filled locale called the Left Bank, the site of some pretty bodacious occult activity. Whatever sinister mojo is bubbling up from the depths affects her growing-nastier-by-the-minute knee infection (it really is quite gross) and her sexual appetite. How does this end? Good luck predicting it.
Really, if you're able to nail how this film wraps then you, sir, are a plot prognosticating genius. I did not see this one coming and even with a few minutes left to go in the runtime, was still in the dark as to what endgame writer/director Pieter Van Hees was targeting. But the guy delivers, crafting one of the most memorable final sequences I've seen on DVD all year.
It can be slow going getting to this gobsmacking conclusion, and there might be a temptation to abandon ship during the slower parts, but this methodical build-up pays off in a big way. During the slow burn, Van Hees does an excellent job developing his characters and spinning out the creepy atmosphere. There is tangible mystery at work here, a pervasive question mark that hangs over the production throughout, as if Van Hees himself is challenging the audience: "Where is this thing going? You have no idea." That might sounds like utter balls-pain to wade through, but the direction and acting is so top-shelf that the enigmatic plotting works.
Eline Kuppens has the most to do and she takes it all like a champ. As the hapless victim thrown into this wild and woolly world, her Marie is the entry-point for the audience. Weird, scary stuff happens to her and I was just as confused by the circumstances as she was. That made the experience much more harrowing. Add to that a shockingly gutsy performance -- she's nude and slimy for the entire ending -- and Kuppens gets my vote for Boldest Female Performance in a Horror Film for 2009.
A psychological mystery film that takes its time crafting the world and ends with a nuke drop. That's what Left Bank is. What it isn't is a gore-fest, jump-scare generator. If you're expecting a fast-paced splatter flick or a J-horror creepfest, you will not be entertained. Still, it's cool and unique, and in a genre that is all about formula, a departure like this is appreciated.
The DVD is lean, sporting a solid 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix (Dutch with English subtitles). A batch of deleted scenes is your only extra.
Be patient and you will be handsomely rewarded.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Dutch)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes