(The gist: The Treatment crossed my horror threshold, punched me in the face, then crossed it again. I could appreciate how well done and how successfully disturbing the film was; however, I would unsee it if I could.)
It is hard for me write a review for The Treatment, maybe as difficult as it was for me to watch The Treatment. I once wrote a blog post examining horror thresholds, when horror media crossed that line and becomes too traumatizing to be entertaining. The Treatment definitely leaped far across my personal horror threshold and absolutely lived on one of the subject matters I generally avoid.
Watching The Treatment was like a punch in the face. Then a punch in the stomach. Then another punch in the face.
The Treatment is about Nick, a police officer who is investigating the abduction of a 9 year-old boy. This particular case draws up tortured memories of and might be connected to his own brother’s abduction as a child. At the Stanley Film Festival, The Treatment was introduced to us as the Belgian Se7en, and it did in fact live up to the title. If Se7en was all about child rape.
The Treatment is undoubtedly the most graphic representation of pedophilia I have ever seen in any film. This might possibly be because I do avoid the subject matter, yet it is still utterly shocking. Gut-wrenching. In a scene where most movies would cut away at the point that the child abuse was adequately implied, The Treatment actually shows you. I have a vivid image of a naked old man tugging a young boy’s leg around his hip that will probably haunt me indefinitely.
In addition to the graphic portrayal of all the subject matter, The Treatment takes one of the worst things (child abuse and pedophilia) and manages to make it even worse. I will not go into the plot details to avoid spoilers, but it is amazingly twisted and so disturbing that it was painful to watch. I had to force myself to stick it out, to remain in my seat.
All that being said, The Treatment is extremely well done as a movie. The mystery in the story is gripping and very multi-layered. There are so many different, intertwining tangents that ultimately have to be tied up at the conclusion. If it had been any other type of subject matter (say, a deranged serial killer), I would have probably loved it.
Visually, the movie is also dark, in the sense that the scenes are very dark, many illuminated by only a shaking flashlight. This is effective at setting the scene and definitely lends to the Se7en feel; however, between navigating the darkness and keeping up with the subtitles, it is sometimes hard to follow.
The Treatment begs the question that if a movie is so horrifying that it is upsetting, does that make it successful horror? Or should a horror movie strive to remain just inside that line and still entertain its audience? I would say The Treatment is beyond successful with horror for me, as it still lingers unpleasantly in mind. It affected me greatly, all the way to a physical level, and that ability has to be appreciated. However, in that success, it alienated me. I would not have watched it had I known the extend of what I was committing to.
I commend The Treatment on being a well done film and on truly pushing if not breaking the boundaries on disturbing subject matter. However, I would only recommend watching it if you have a strong stomach and are able to deal with the very graphic portrayal of pedophilia and child abuse.