Edinburgh International Film Festival

Left Bank (Linkeroever) (2008)

Starring: Eline Kuppens, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sien Eggers

Directed by: Pieter Van Hees

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Matthias Schoenaerts and Eline Kuppens in Left Bank

Marie Wunyst is a dedicated athlete, a middle distance runner for whom winning is everything, and boys and clothes and hair and all the other trappings of youth an unnecessary distraction. But when this driven young woman is forced to take time out from training due to an undiagnosed blood virus, she throws her usual reserve to the wind. After a passionate night with Bobby de Hondt, an archer she meets at her gym, she moves into his apartment on Antwerp's Bohemian and ever so slightly disreputable Left Bank.

A move about as smart as Rosemary Woodhouse's when she sets up home in the Black Bramford.

And, as Marie's athletic body increasingly starts to let her down, as she vomits, passes out and leaks strange substances, a knee injury mutating into one of the most stomach churning lumps of gore I've ever seen on screen, so her suspicions about the building and its mysterious, folkloric history grow. What happened to the previous tenant of Bobby's flat, who disappeared seven months ago? Why was she researching old legends about dragons, sacrifices and primordial black pools of smouldering oil? And just what is in cellar 51?

With shades of The Wicker Man, Left Bank blends sinister folklore with modern scepticism to gripping effect, as everyday objects take on foreboding aspects and centuries-old horror is dragged into the present day. And, in true gothic horror stylee, it's hard to tell whether Marie's fears have any grounds, or are simply a projection of a restless, exhausted mind that cannot adapt to sudden enforced boredom.

Slipping between genres like an eel, Left Bank seamlessly encompasses arthouse psychological drama, romance, family drama, thriller, slasher and David Cronenberg-style body horror, making it impossible to predict what will happen next. As for the ending, it's the perfect twist – shocking and inconceivable, yet logically inevitable.

If you're a fan of Roman Polanski, you'll love this dark, absorbing, slow burning gothic horror thriller. This is really happening? It is on the Left Bank.

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