Fantasia Review: The Columnist

After a columnist’s article goes viral, she gets a great book deal. The downside is, now she has trolls constantly harassing and threatening her on social media. The columnist decides to take matters into her own hands and exacts revenge on those trolls.

Hailing all the way from the Netherlands, Fantasia International Film Festival brings the darkly comedic horror film, The Columnist. The film is directed by Ivo van Aart (Quantum Zeno, Zes Dates) and written by Daan Windhorst (Quantum Zeno, Zes Dates). Together, this duo deliver a black comedy that is both hilarious and humorous. As a writer, this is a story that really hits home. Femke Boot is a columnist who writes a controversial piece that sets some of the more conservative readers on the attack. Trolls hound her on social media by threatening her, calling her names, and so on. It’s unfortunately all too common for the anonymity of the internet to embolden people to say whatever they want without fear of repercussions. Yet Famke isn’t going to take this harassment anymore. She begins tracking down some of the more vicious trolls and getting her revenge.

The plot of The Columnist is very straight-foward, if not a bit too on-the-nose, but still brings the laughs. Femke gets up to some very bloody and violent antics tinged with dark humor. What makes her violent acts even more hilarious is that they seem to help her break any writers block she runs into while writing her new book. It’s very clear how the filmmakers feel about internet trolls. They address it in a comedic way, but it also doesn’t leave a lot of room for complexity within the plot. The only thing driving the story, aside from Famke trying to finish her book by killing trolls, is whether or not she will be caught. It leads to a rather predictable end, but the film is still a fun watch.

Each actor in The Columnist plays the role relatively straight, which makes their performances even funnier. The characters seem so normal on the surface, but their actions prove otherwise. Katja Herbers (Westworld, The Leftovers) stars as Famke Boot. Famke seems like the most normal, mild-mannered woman. Herbers does a great job of giving off that persona for the character, while also showing Famke becoming more unhinged the longer she scrolls through social media. It makes her murderous actions shocking, yet still plausible. Despite these violent methods, Herbers still shows Famke as a sympathetic character. Bram van der Kelen (Centraal, 4Jim) plays another writer, Steven Dood. At first Steven seems like he’s against Famke, but he eventually reveals he is simply playing a spooky persona to match his books. He’s an interesting character who is surprisingly sweet and van der Kelen’s performance adds a bit more commentary on the roles we play in the public eye. Herbers and van der Kelen are not only great together on screen, but they also perfectly show two opposing types of writers.

Despite the generally lighthearted tone of The Columnist, it still has a fair amount of gore. Each time Famke kills, the murder scenes become a bit more elaborate and violent. The best part is the “souvenir” she takes from each victim. The practical effects are disturbingly realistic. They are all the more disturbing because of the juxtaposition between the murders and the otherwise cheery Netherlands setting.

The Columnist is a delightful revenge fantasy for anyone who has dealt with internet trolls, despite it being a bit gauche. Windhorst and van Aart have a clear message they are sending to Fantasia International Film Festival audiences. There could have been a bit more subtlty, but the bloody dark comedy is still incredibly entertaining to watch. Both Herbers and van der Kelen deliver delightful performances. It’s an almost therapeutic watch that will hopefully make at least a few trolls think twice before posting hate on the internet.


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