Horror Movies

BORGMAN. Truly mysterious and original horror movie

Borgman by Alex van Warmerdam is controversial.

Filip Jalowski

30 March 2024

BORGMAN. Truly mysterious nad original horror movie

It’s the kind of cinema that isn’t easily discussed because one sentence can reveal too much to the reader. Borgman relies on mystery, a sense of siege, and the presence of something terrifying but impossible to name (after all, we fear most the things we don’t know).

Van Warmerdam creates an original picture that is hard to compare to films seen before. If forced to suggest similar titles, I’d call Borgman a creative blend of The Strangers, Funny Games, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, all in a tone somewhat reminiscent of playing with the “home invasion” genre.

Borgman Jan Bijvoet

The titular character belongs to the archetype of figures like the Joker, the killer from Seven, or The Hitcher. We know nothing about him. When he first appears on screen, he is pursued by a group of people resembling rural vampire hunters. A priest with a shotgun, sharpened stakes (metal, not made of ash, so Borgman‘s origin isn’t entirely clear), clear signs of fanaticism on the faces of those in the pursuit. Borgman escapes, along with two men who, like him, were hiding in chambers built beneath the surface of the forest. In subsequent scenes, the character begins to evoke sympathy, looking like a typical homeless person seeking shelter and a warm meal. He finds both under the roof of Marina and Richard. Unbeknownst to her husband, Marina harbors Borgman in a shed near the apartment. Since his arrival, the relationship between the spouses begins to deteriorate, and inexplicable things start happening in the house.

Borgman Hadewych Minis Jeroen Perceval

Not a word more can be said about the plot of Warmerdam’s film because the pleasure derived from watching Borgman comes from sinking deeper and deeper into its unsettling and enigmatic world. Fortunately, the production is far from something I would call “forced weirdness.” The atmosphere is built very consistently, and all the threads (despite being totally torn from a broader context) weave into a convincing narrative. By the end of the film, we begin to realize that those who seemed like rural fanatics just a few minutes ago (the priest and the stake-wielding crew) become more human than the residents of the wealthy Dutch house and those associated with Borgman himself.


The Dutch variation on “home invasion” has the makings of a cult film. A story full of implications, terrifying and charismatic characters hidden behind the masks of ordinary people, a claustrophobic atmosphere, and cleverly smuggled black humor – Borgman has it all. Warmerdam has managed to create something truly original and interesting.