Quick recap: A young man and woman, Rex and Saskia, go on vacation together, when Saskia disappears. If that wasn’t bad enough, he starts getting letters from her abductor, driving him to the brink of insanity.
Fun (?) fact: The story is based off of an urban legend where a mother and daughter check into a hotel for the Paris Exposition of 1901. The daughter goes downstairs to a shop and when she returns to the room, her mother is missing and no one she asks knows anything. If this sounds familiar, it’s also been the basis for at least 5 other films.
My thoughts: Now that Horrorfest has come to a close, I realize that my theme this year was actually, ‘horror movies that aren’t’. The Vanishing fits perfectly in the mystery and thriller section, but I just don’t see how horror comes up. The concept of someone vanishing is scary, but not in a ‘can’t turn off the lights’ sort of scary. I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m disappointed to have ended the month without seeing very many horror films.
I’m going to skip through all of my usual stuff about the acting, music, dialogue and what-not to say that the reason to watch this film is for the ending. Spoiler alert now, although this film is from 1988 so if you don’t want to be spoiled about 30 year old movies, the internet isn’t the place for you. Anyway, most of the film goes in the direction I expected it to: girl vanishes, guy looks for her to the point of insanity. What I liked was that interspersed in that plot is the abductor’s story. He’s a totally normal guy, with a family, a job as a professor, and a hobby for attempting to abduct and murder young woman. Perfectly normal. He describes himself as a sociopath, which is thrown around a lot in these films, but really applies to this guy. Sociopaths can still be functioning members of society and many of them aren’t murderous insane people, but they lack empathy, which brings its own set of problems. Raymond, the abductor, isn’t your typical villain because he sees the abduction as an experiment of sorts. I can’t figure out if that makes him scarier or less scarier, but it’s definitely creepy. When he finally meets Rex, he has no problem telling him the story, thus admitting his involvement. It’s not like he is bragging, but at the same time, he seems proud of himself for finally getting the details right and going through the abduction.
The scenes with Rex and Raymond in the car are deeply unsettling. Still not in horror territory, but still unnerving. It’s 3 years later and Rex, as mentioned before, can barely function doing anything else besides looking for Saskia. When Raymond offers him the opportunity to find out what became of her, he turns it down at first because it involves taking a sleeping pill and going unconscious. The decision is really difficult: take the pill and find out what happens and risk dying yourself, or never finding out and continue a life that isn’t worth much anymore. So, he takes the pill and then the next scene is of Rex trapped in a coffin, while Raymond covers him with dirt. It wasn’t unexpected because there is no way Saskia could still be alive, yet I still hoped there would be some sort of twist and everything would be ok. And I guess it is a happy ending, because Rex, although dead, found out what happened, and Raymond has the pleasure of having killed two people. The final scene is of him sitting serenely outside, watching his children play and his wife water the bushes where his victims are buried.
Final review: 4/5 A solid movie but not horror.
Up next: Juliet of the Spirits