Movie Ramblings: Claustrofobia

claustroClaustrofobia is the first Dutch language movie I can remember watching.  I lived in the Netherlands for a few years but most of the movies I saw were in English with subtitles.

Nostalgia aside, this is a pretty straightforward horror/thriller with the standard story of a girl kidnapped and held hostage in a basement for whatever mysterious reason.  

Claustrofobia is the story of Eva, a veterinary student who has a problem with killing and dissecting animals.  She really wants to be an actor but she is pretty bad at it.  She moves into a new apartment and meets her dodgy looking landlord, who keeps something mysterious in his back room, a charming downstairs neighbour who is training to be a doctor and a peeping tom who lives across the street.  After a night of drinking with her friends Eva wakes up in a basement chained to a bed.  Which of the dodgy characters has imprisoned her and for what nefarious end?  Do we really care?

There are so many of these films about now that I really don’t care about whatever twisted reason the writers have come up with for the abductor doing what they do.  This one has a standard “childhood trauma turned me into a maniac” type plot with a bit of a twist but really it is reasonably obvious what is going on.  It keeps you in suspense for a bit with a couple of dodgy looking characters who all could potentially be the abductor but when it reveals who is (literally) behind the mask quite early on it isn’t as much of a surprise as it seems the filmmakers hoped it would be.  The trauma thing is spelled out right at the beginning and then again during the investigation of Eva’s disappearance which seems to be putting it on a bit thick to me.

The abductor is a bit inept which I always like in these films, gives you more of a sense that the plucky captive might just be able to outsmart the kidnapper and get away.  I really don’t like it when the bad guys are portrayed as all powerful and yet the captives still escape anyway, if you’re going to do that then have a bleak ending I say(!)

In all I enjoyed the film, it was nicely shot and didn’t slide into gratuitous nonsense as a lot of these stories seem to do in the second half.  In fact there was far less gore (hardly any in fact) and nudity (very brief) than I had expected from the story description and DVD cover.  In fact, having had a look around the internet for an image to illustrate this post, I can see that the DVD cover (in some regions at least) seems to show the main character chained naked to the bed which never happens in the movie I watched!

The characters and dialogue were reasonably believable (although as previously discussed this might be to do with the language barrier masking shonky dialogue or poor acting).  Nothing particularly exciting or dramatic in it though and far too much explanation of what is going on which just feels like padding to make the film last to 90 minutes.

Warning (mild) spoilers from here on!

The film also has a number of other inept characters who work out who the abductor is and in some cases why he is doing it and yet somehow manage to fail to do anything about it and end up getting killed.  There are several places where I expect that you will be yelling at the screen that the whole situation could be resolved with just one phone call or other simple action on the part of a person who has already done the hard work of discovering what is going on.

As for the policeman who knows he is in the apartment of a mentally disturbed kidnapper and possible murderer who puts his gun away before he has found out where the kidnapper is deserves what he gets (and I must say, what he does get is not something that I have ever seen on film before!)


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