A young boy and girl break into their local morgue one blue afternoon and race around the empty building for larks. Coming across the area where the bodies are stored, the girl dares her diminutive companion to spend ten seconds in one of its refrigerated containers. If he does, she says, he can touch her somewhere intimate.

Naturally, he climbs into the fridge and allows her to close the door on him. He counts to ten Ö but she does not return to open the door. The scene ends with him seemingly trapped inside.

Fast-forward several years and we meet Eva (Carolien Spoor), a seriously hot young woman struggling through her studies at veterinary college. Sheís clearly preoccupied Ė perhaps by her need to inject insulin into her inner thigh regularly, or maybe be the unwanted attention of her recent ex Dino.

Or, more likely, it could be her search for a new place to live. We follow her as she views an apartment in a high-rise tenement block, complete with a sinister landlord alongside neighbours who include odd doctor Alex (Dragan Bakema) and a potential Peeping Tom. Presumably, then, Eva has her reasons for accepting the apartment.

With the help of feisty mate Cynthia (Juliette van Ardenne), Eva moves in to her new place and all seems well. Until Ö

Returning from a night of clubbing, Eva gets home with Cynthia and the freshly acquainted Alex for a few more drinks, only to wake the next morning chained to a bed in a barren, oversized cell.

Who has abducted Eva, and why? What do they hope to gain from blasting rock music at her through a Tannoy speaker? And, can they maybe think of any better forms of torture when they finally make an appearance, in bovver boots and gas mask?

CLAUSTROFOBIA is well shot and edited, benefiting from stylish cinematic colour palettes and some wonderful if unforced compositions. Performances are largely naturalistic, while the score is suitably low-key in a manner befitting of the steady but measured build-up.

Director Bobby Boermans exhibits an assured control over his subject, maintaining an attractive but unobtrusive approach to his filming. It allows the actors to take centre-stage, and the viewer to become invested emotionally in whatís going on from an early point.

While low on grue and certainly guilty of a dip in pace during its mid-section, I have to say this CLAUSTROFOBIA kept me interested and culminated in a final 10 minutes that really were tense: the denouement (remember the prologue?) wasnít as expected, and even the P2-esque showdown wasnít as corny as I know it should have been.

All in all, this is a highly accomplished piece of exploitation cinema. Itís considered, impressively executed and aesthetically pleasing even when it ups the ante in terms of violence during its second half.

Does it have flaws? Of course. For one, it canít hope to sustain the intrigue set up by its first third. Consequently, the 94-minute running time may be a stretch of the viewerís patience. Also, a lot of this is playing to the tune of American convention Ė from the glossy exposition, to the cat-mouse psychology bouts which ensue between Eva and her captor. Itís all old-hat, save for a few twists which, if you donít think too hard to second-guess them, keep things interesting.

I enjoyed this film. Itís not a classic and I canít say if Iíll ever revisit it, but as a nightís viewing it provided entertainment of an unchallenging variety. And when Evaís captor starts withdrawing blood from her via syringe, you WILL feel compelled to stick around and find out why Ö

CLAUSTROFOBIA comes to US DVD on this region 1 disc courtesy of Seminal Films. This follows its origins as a film placed online as a free download in the hope of people spreading the word about it. That itís got a commercial DVD release in the States shows, I suppose, that this ploy was successful.

The disc proffers the film uncut in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Itís a highly impressive quality transfer provided, with sharp visuals and lovely hues of colour throughout. If the DVDís cover art makes this film look cheap, it is then pleasing to report that the style of filming and its presentation here are anything but.

Dutch 2.0 audio is strong, as are the optional and easily readable (yellow with a black borderline) English subtitles.

A static main menu page opens the disc. From there, an animated scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 10 chapters.

There are no extra features.

CLAUSTROFOBIA came as a real surprise to me. The cover art and photographs on the back cover make it look like some terrible Eric Stanze film. Itís not: itís a highly attractive, accomplished and diverting film that, while never threatening to achieve greatness, would be a real shame if people were to overlook.

It looks splendid on Seminalís DVD.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Seminal Films
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review