The Columnist successfully balances a line between the satirical and sobering, and delivers some nice genre play in the process.
Ivo Van Aart’s darkly comic horror film The Columnist fits solidly within the well-worn genre of serial killer/slasher flick. However, Van Aart and screenwriter Daan Windhorst invest the material with a decidedly woke feminist slant, paying particular attention to women’s challenges in navigating the often treacherous terrain of social media. Femke Boot (Katja Herbers) pens a widely read opinion column with subjects ranging from the divisive (expressing her opposition to the Dutch “Black Pete” celebration, an anti-blackface position apparently considered controversial) to the innocuous (opinions on soup and boiled eggs), but regardless of whatever subject she chooses to weigh in on, she’s a lightning rod for extremely nasty comments underneath her pieces and in her Twitter mentions. These sadistic netizens seem to be exclusively male, and special emphasis is placed on the viciously gendered nature of their text-based attacks. Femke’s horror novelist boyfriend tells her to never read the comments, but just like Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic,” that’s the good advice that she just can’t take, and she decides to Google the commenters’ home addresses so that she can pay some of these haters a personal visit. It’s not giving too much away to say that this doesn’t turn out too well for them.
Van Aart builds The Columnist around a fairly simplistic, but still brutally effective, premise; the film is careful to tread the line between broadly satirical and a more sobering tone. Even when severed fingers, shotgun blasts, and slashed necks resulting from Femke’s one-woman crusade of extreme comment moderation take center stage, there’s a desire for catharsis — especially for any woman who has suffered victimization from cyberbullying, particularly the variety practiced by the rogue’s gallery of cowardly incels who receive their richly deserved just desserts in this film.
Originally published as part of Fantasia Fest 2020 — Dispatch 1.