The 101 Horror Movies brought me the wonderfully unnerving The Vanishing, not the Hollywood remake of course, but the original Netherlands/French film.
Ably directed by George Sluizer, the film is a tale of love, obsession and murder, and isn’t afraid to be both comedic at times, and downright frightening.
Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and his girlfriend Saskia (Ter Steege) are on a relaxing trip through France, when a stop at a rest station becomes a nightmare for both of them.
Saskia disappears and Rex is left scared, worried, and with absolutely no answers. She’s simply gone.
We move forward three years, and Rex is still obsession over her disappearance, driven to know what happened to his love. He goes on the news pleading for information, to just KNOW what happened to her. He puts up posters, he runs the little information he has over and over again.
To no avail.
It even costs him a new relationship, because he simply can’t let this obsession go.
Rex’s tale begins to be intercut with Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), a teacher, a husband, a father, a murderer.
Watching Raymond’s side of the story is the unnerving part, yes Rex’s obsession, and anxiety over what happened to Saskia is naturally troubling, but realizing that Raymond is a likable character, almost, but not quite empathizing with him is the truly terrifying part.
He could be anybody.
We see his initial trials, as he formulates how to abduct someone, what he’ll say, what he’ll do, how he’ll behave. His plans grow and develop, and sometimes have comedic results when he tries to put them into action.
But he learns from each and every incident.
Perfecting is strategy until he knows exactly how to pull off his plan.
He finally reaches out to Rex, watching him from a distance, studying him, until he finally reaches out to him and invites him to learn Saskia’s fate.
And Rex in his all-encompassing obsession to know what happened agrees.
Which leads us to the incredible climax, as Rex goes through everything Saskia went through, the only way Raymond will reveal what happened.
The film builds slowly, towards its inescapable conclusion, wrapping you up in both characters’ stories, Rex is alone, separate from anything, his life seems to have stopped since that day, while Raymond has a happy family life, two loving daughters, a good job.
And that for me continues to be the creepy part, Raymond doesn’t seem like a bad guy, a little odd perhaps, he’s almost likable. It’s only we the viewer and his victims (and he captures Saskia almost by blind luck) that see that there is more going on with him than his family and friends know.
The last shot of the film is truly disturbing, he hasn’t left his victims far far away, in fact their proximity, the way they may actually start to infringe on his family life should his little experiments in letting people experience his greatest fear is a little disturbing.
He’s smart though, and you’re left to wonder how long he’ll be doing this, and if or how he’d ever be caught.
A top-notch film, that just completely wraps you up in the story, and continues to unnerve 24 years later…
Have you seen it?