Saturday, October 13, 2012

Final Girl Film Club - Left Bank

Throughout October, Cody will be participating in the Final Girl Film Club SHOCKtober event with articles posted on a different movie every day of the month.

Today, the 2008 Belgian film Left Bank.

Marie is a highly competitive runner who is never happy with her rankings. Coming in second place isn't good enough for her, even when her time qualifies her to move on into the European Championships. Her life revolves entirely around running and winning... Until she collapses one day, and her doctor finds that her blood counts are all messed up and her immune system is weak. She's been pushing herself too hard, it has affected her menstrual cycle, she could be risking her chances of ever having children, and she has seemingly now caught some kind of virus and might have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Her doctor orders her to rest for a month, which means she might have to miss the championship. Having nothing to do gives her time to start building a relationship with a young man named Bobby, she even decides to spend her weeks of doctor ordered relaxation staying at Bobby's apartment in the Left Bank area of Antwerp.

The Left Bank area has a dark reputation in Belgium, which we gather through comments about Marie never having known someone who lived there before and the fact that her mother has always felt uneasy about the place. Apparently it's not unusual for people who live in the apartment building to have headaches, nausea, and vomiting, all of which Marie develops herself during her stay. She also starts having very strange dreams about things like drowning in a pit of mud or finding an abandoned baby in the woods, and there are other weird body issues and possibly hallucinations - finding dirt in her underwear, potting soil running down the shower drain.

After learning that the woman who previously lived in Bobby's apartment (and whose name was Hella) disappeared, Marie starts digging up stories on the history of Left Bank. Stories that the area was designated for outcasts in the Middle Ages, with society exiling witches, gangs, and those with the plague to Left Bank... Stories of a pit called The Diabolic Vagina that was believed to lead right down into the underworld and would have existed exactly where the apartment building now stands... Stories of the night of Samhain, November 1st, when a gateway is opened to the spirit world... November 1st is just a couple weeks away...

I had never heard of this movie before seeing it on the Film Club schedule, but I am very glad that it was on there, because it turned out to be a great discovery. I liked the movie a lot, and either I've somehow overlooked all references to it online, or this is a movie that's not (yet?) getting as much recognition from horror fans as it deserves. I'm not sure if I've ever seen any other movies from Belgium, but with this one the country has given a great showing in the horror genre, thanks to director Pieter Van Hees.

The movie has an effectively creepy, dark, strange atmosphere and, though it takes a little while to warm up to her character, I really liked Eline Kuppens' performance in the role of Marie. With its stark fall setting and story that builds toward November 1st, Left Bank makes for a perfect October viewing.

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