I had the benefit of reviewing Bobby Boermans’ debut film CLAUSTROFOBIA several months back when it enjoyed an American DVD release through Seminal Films. Now, the UK finally gets to savour this interesting low-budget offering, thanks to the fine folk at Matchbox Films.

Details of the new disc will follow, but first – a recap of the synopsis from my previous review:

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 … 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. She’s clearly preoccupied – 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 …

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 an entertaining, thought-provoking film that holds up well to a second viewing. It’s 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 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 what’s 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 CLAUSTROFOBIA kept me interested and, even second time around, it culminated in a final 10 minutes that really were tense: the denouement (remember the prologue?) wasn’t as expected, and the P2-esque showdown still wasn’t as corny as I know it should have been.

There are flaws – the dip in pace; the conventional cat-and-mouse schematics of some of the action. But, all in all, Boermans’ film remains a highly accomplished piece of exploitation cinema. It’s considered, impressively executed and aesthetically pleasing even when it ups the ante in terms of violence during its second half. It’s not a classic, but as a night’s viewing it provided entertainment of an unchallenging variety. And when Eva’s captor starts withdrawing blood from her via syringe, you WILL feel compelled to stick around and find out why …

CLAUSTROFOBIA originally came to US DVD on a region 1 disc courtesy of Seminal Films. That release followed its origins as a film placed online as a free download in the hope of people spreading the word about it. That it’s now enjoyed commercial DVD releases on both sides of the Atlantic shows, I suppose, that this ploy was successful.

Matchbox Films bring CLAUSTROFOBIA to UK DVD uncut in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, enhancing the picture for 16x9 televisions. The transfer appears to be identical to that used on the American DVD release. This is a good thing, as it’s a highly impressive one with sharp visuals and lovely hues of colour throughout.

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

A static main menu page opens the disc. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 16 chapters.

There were no extra features on the US disc. The Matchbox Films DVD is slightly more generous, offering the film’s original 67-second trailer in 16x9 widescreen.

CLAUSTROFOBIA is an accomplished film that, despite its look and feel at times of following American horror movie trends, is capable of serving up the odd surprise. The cast are good, as is the script.

The film looks very good on this DVD, which will hopefully help the film find an audience in the UK.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Matchbox Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review