Loft (2009) dir. Erik Van Looy
Starring: Koen De Bouw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Filip Peeters, Koen De Graeve, Veerle Baetens
By Alan Bacchus
Loft arrived in Canada straight to DVD in 2009, with little previous traction in North America. It received neither a theatrical release nor any major film festival screenings, and so it'll require some heavy lifting to get this into the public consciousness. Well, let this be my small part.
This 2009 Belgian thriller unravels a very steamy potboiler about five buddies who co-own an ultra-cool loft specifically for the purpose of their extramarital trysts. When one day they walk in and find a nude dead girl on the bed suddenly they all suspect each other of murder. From this salacious set-up we're in the world of Joe Eszterhas, a trashy, '90s-era, pseudo-sexual throwback, or something in the genre of airport paperback writers like Dean Koontz. But after a first act hump we quickly find ourselves ensnared in a surprisingly well thought out and near-airtight, white-knuckle whodunit.
After the discovery, the men have to figure out A) what to do with the body and B) who could have perpetrated such a crime, and through flashbacks, we learn about the events that led up to this grisly murder. Each individual is drawn with simplistic characterizations, such as the coke-snorting playboy, the awkward nice guy and the manipulative, rich architect. But after the tedious exposition the film catches fire in the second act when writer Bart De Pauw starts to reveal each character's motivations and drops a good helping of red herrings involving the possible vengeance of their wives and the corporate intrigue of their business dealings.
Director Erik Van Looy embraces the steaminess of the genre and assumes his right to use all camera tricks and visual slickness to embellish the melodrama and produce a compelling genre thriller.
I'm also reminded of Guillaume Canet's Tell No One, a similar foreign language genre thriller that couldn't sustain its brilliant cinematic teasing in the third act. With this in mind, I was prepared for the film to fail at the end, and so as each loophole got tied up, red herrings discarded and just the right number of subplots twisted, Loft actually worked all the way up to the end. While it is no masterpiece, it's worthy of standing out in the mountain of other new releases on the shelf.