Keyboard warriors are everywhere, arguably the detritus of the cyber-realm. They hide behind the anonymity of their screens spewing vile, and cruel things without care or responsibility. Dutch film The Columnist takes these characters to task in this dark comedic horror. It makes its arguments for the rights of free speech, and the responsibilities hereto .
At the centre of the film is Femke Boot (Katja Herbers), columnist, author, mother… murderer. Pushed too far by the comments on her vanilla columns, she begins to track and hunt the worst of them down. Doling out perceived justice, asking why people just can’t be nice.
Herbers is perfectly on point as Femke. Her interactions with her daughter, Anna (Claire Poro) and her lover, Steven (Bram van der Kelen) play as realistic. And it’s interesting to watch Anna approach the same subject matter, from a completely different angle than Femke.
One has to wonder about the forensic abilities of the Dutch police. Femke leaves so much evidence at each scene, but that’s not the story’s point. The Columnist is serving as a social commentary told through horror trope. It is a genre, much like science fiction that is rife with parable and analogy.
Horror fans may be disappointed by the lack of gore for each of Femke’s kills. But the narrative weight of each of them plays (and preys) on the character, even as her home life threatens to unfurl. And Herbers performance is the true draw of the film, she balances Femke wonderfully, fleshing out her character’s naive yet killer beauty.
The film leaves some narrative questions purposely dangling, letting the viewer debate and wonder how things play out. It also lets them ruminate on the responsibilities that come with the freedoms that so many take for granted and brandish without thought.