Filmmakers resort to all sorts of tactics these days to creep out movie fans. From thick blood and gore to slow building flicks with a shocking payoff, there’s no shortage of product on the market eager to put audiences in a state of unease. That’s why the Dutch import "Borgman" is even more impressive – in its five-star accomplishment of being unnerving from start to finish it boldly uses none of the above.
As the film opens three men are seen amassing various weapons of sorts. All local townsmen, including one who’s a priest, the gents seem to be on a mission to destroy. Seems they’re after an underground hiding vagrant, who himself heads out of danger and alerts others also in bunker hiding along the way. He then comes across a house and knocks on the door asking to use the bath to clean up…and then the fun begins.
There is far too much sinister and subtle within the disturbing framework of "Borgman" and even if there wasn’t I wouldn’t reveal any tidbits here anyway. The tone of dread and uncomfortable that weaves through "Borgman" like a weight on one’s chest is so incredibly palpable that it defies description. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly horror and malice in the sometimes comically sadistic story here, but nothing is overt. No splattered special effects, no shocking twists, just a careful calculated tale of pure psychological manipulation between an unsuspecting family and a gang of odd folks with a way for wickedness. As the guru-like mysterious leader of the group named "Borgman," Jan Bijvoet hands in one of the most memorably unnerving yet perfectly affable performances I’ve ever witnessed. His motives, actions and desires are unclear, but it’s painfully obvious that he’s not out to do good. Everyone else, including his loyal cohorts, all seem to be under the spell and influence of the hairy force of nature – its true tour-de-force work if ever there was any.
I have to hand it to Director Alex van Warmerdam - not only did he craft a flick that keeps anxiety on the table for the entire meal, but this is one sick story that screams original. I don’t know where the idea came from or where Bijvoet drew inspiration for his unsettling character and frankly I don’t want to. Delving into a dark word of unknown horror presented with an affable face, "Borgman" is a boogeyman we’ve never seen before.
"BORGMAN" HITS SELECT THEATERS JUNE 6 AND EXPANDS AFTER FROM DRAFTHOUSE FILMS.