Directed by Pieter Van Hees
Written by Christophe Dirickx, Dimitri Karakatsanis, Pieter Van Hees
Starring Eline Kuppens, Mattias Schoenaerts, Sien Eggars

Girls can go crazy too. Take LEFT BANK, for example.

Marie, a young athlete, suffers from an injury keeping her from competing in the Olympic tryouts. She immediately starts a relationship with a handsome young archer and rather quickly she moves in with him whereupon she finds out that the previous tenant in his apartment building disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Stuck in the apartment, Marie begins to investigate her disappearance, finding a lockbox with what looks to be research into the occult, a piece of paper with part of the name smeared out, and neighbors who know only bits and pieces of the girl. Now, had Marie seen ROSEMARY’S BABY, she may have beat feet out of the apartment in the Left Bank at Jump Street, but what kind of horror film would this be if she did that?

Though a bit slow, Belgium’s LEFT BANK is a pretty effective horror thriller set in the Left Bank riverside region of Antwerp. Director Pieter Van Hees takes his time introducing the audience to Marie, her roguish boyfriend Bobby, and setting up what would be a mystery–or maybe Marie’s just going a bit nuts. Had I not known this was a horror film, this might have been a bigger treat. But going into this with prior knowledge that this is a horror film, I think I started to become somewhat antsy as Marie slowly uncovers the truth.

Though I don’t want to spoil things, I’m sure you can guess that there’s something not right in the apartment building. Marie begins to have bad dreams filled with pretty heavy metaphors. Upon injuring her knee, weird coarse hairs start growing from Marie’s wound. And I think they may have added three or five too many scenes of Marie vomiting. Van Hees, though he may have been overly patient to bring forth the horror in LEFT BANK, does fill most of the film with a heavy sense of dread. A lot of that comes from Marie (played by Eline Kuppens), who looks a little bit like Liv Tyler in need of some Zoloft. She’s not the most chipper of actors, but the few times she does smile; turns out she is really appealing. Another rich character of the film is the Left Bank region. The gloomy beaches and parks, the stark and plain buildings, the dimly lit streets–all contributors to the palpable feeling of dread of LEFT BANK.

As I said before, LEFT BANK owes a lot to ROSEMARY’S BABY and even the original THE WICKER MAN. For a large portion of the film, Marie is the only one experiencing this case of paranoia as her life crumbles around her. Up to a point, it could go either way, but as soon as a black pit of nothingness appears in the basement and the former boyfriend of the missing girl shows up with new info, you pretty much know that even though everyone around her tells her she’s going buts, something diabolical is happening.

But LEFT BANK is a pretty effective horror film once it gets going in the last half hour. Though it’s a bit of a slow starter, LEFT BANK ends with some of the more horrific and original climaxes I’ve seen in a while. From the twisted imagery of a meat-masked druid right down to a real life birth scene, Van Hees knows how to convey mood and terror like few I’ve seen of modern horror-meisters. To get to that point, though, you’ve got to be somewhat patient.