Saturday, October 23, 2010


Well, it's Halloween time, and maybe you are looking for something scary to watch, something you haven't seen on AMC 6 thousand times with the bloody bits cut out and the foul words dubbed with phrases that sound similar but don't make any sense. Yes, we all love Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street  and Leprechaun 4: Lep In Space. But how about something new? Something a little more cerebral? A slow burn that is more disturbing than Warwick Davis popping out of that spaceman's wiener? 

"The Vanishing," George Sluzer. 1988.

Obviously, I'm recommending an European film. (I'm going to pretend it was never remade into a flick starring Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock with an idiotic American happy ending tacked on.) I don't think I'm spoiling anything by telling you Sluzer's movie is not nice. Rex and Saskia are in love, even though Rex is kind of a dick. They're on holiday in the countryside and stop at a gas station for a pee and a snack. Rex waits in the car for Saskia to come back. And he waits and he waits and he waits. But she doesn't come back. She's gone. 

What makes this film so interesting is the time it spends with the bad guy. It's never a question of "Who did it?"--we see the abductor early on. We watch his failed attempts to lure other young women into his car, watch him calculate how long his drugged victim will stay unconscious, watch him dote on his young daughters. This isn't the sort of pornographic, peering over the shoulder of a maniac as he fillets school girls and burns animals sort of examination of a killer. It is quiet and methodical, just like our bad guy, Mr. Lemorne. 

So you know something terrible happened to Saskia. Rex does, too. But what? Rex's obsession with finding out the truth eventually leads to a meeting with Mr. Lemorne, who promises to reveal Saskia's fate... But only by enacting it on Rex himself. 

This is a movie that sticks with you, folks. I felt weird and frightened and upset for about a week after watching it. Every time I tried to fall asleep, I would think "Holy shit. What would I do? Maybe I should stop being nice to strangers. Maybe I should carry a switchblade." 

Anyway, rent it if you want to feel that desperate tightening in your chest that won't go away for at least three days. That's all we ask for from movies, yes? 

As I haven't written a review in a very long time and I am tired, I am going to end with this picture, which is what comes up when you search for images of the film's Dutch title, "Spoorloos." 

Goodnight, and don't talk to strangers! 


  1. I think you'll really like it! It's seriously a downer, but it's exciting to be so moved by a film when you're jaded by crappy horror flicks. :)