Not all horror movies rely on blood and guts. While those may be what’s most associated with the genre, remember there’s also films like The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, The Shining, The Changeling (with George C. Scott, not Angelina Jolie), even Poltergeist and The Blair Witch Project were more interested in messing with your head than throwing another dead body on the barbie. Which brings us to the latest horror offering from The Criterion Collection: The Vanishing (Spoorloos).
Director George Sluizer snuck under the radar with his creepfest back in 1988, five years before he proved lightning couldn’t strike twice with his own awful American remake. Sometimes it’s the unknown and implied that’s far more effective than a man in a mask wielding a big knife, especially when the villain could be your average next door neighbor who loves his wife and kids. As they say: “It’s always the quiet ones.”
Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are on vacation and seem to have an underlying disquiet to their relationship. When their car runs out of gas in the middle of a tunnel, Rex leaves her in the dark to go back and get gas. Saskia is terrified that he would leave her alone in such distress, but on the road to the next service station, they warm back up to each other. At said station, Saskia goes missing with absolutely no signs left behind. Rex goes on a three year crusade to find his missing girlfriend, which is when we are introduced to her abductor Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) who starts sending Rex anonymous letters, taunting him with the whereabouts to his beloved Saskia, leading him on a most dangerous journey.
As with all Criterion Blu-rays, the 4K scan of this now 26-year-old low budget French production looks amazing. Framed in its original Encoded onto a 50GB disc with few special features and only one audio track, The Vanishing is given plenty of room to breathe. Colors pop without bleeding and skin tones are natural, if a little on the pale side. Detail is ever present, whether it’s actor closeups, costumes, or building facades, and foliage never appear as green globs, which definitely helps considering there’s so much. Grain is ever present but never gives way to noise in even the darkest scenes; any amount of crush is clearly intentional. As for the audio, the single French/Dutch LPCM Mono track keeps the dialogue intelligible, without any annoying hissing or pops. English subtitles are of course included.
The special features are on the scant side, but are worth a look. Brand new interviews with George Sluizer (19 minutes) and Johanna ter Steege (14 minutes), reminiscing about the casting, adapting, and filming of The Vanishing. Sluizer still is weary of Stanley Kubrick declaring it scarier than The Shining, but Sluizer is definitely as proud of his original film as he should be. Also included is the theatrical trailer and a leaflet featuring an essay by Variety writer Scott Foundas.
What makes The Vanishing work as well as it does is it’s leanness. There’s never any scenes that feel like exposition or unnecessary. Taken as a whole, this is one tight production. Even the finale moves along at a fast quip, taking us to places we would rather not go. If you don’t know how this ends yet, brace yourself. Back in 1988, The Vanishing wound up being a pretty big art house hit and now Criterion has provided a phenomenal upgrade from their original DVD. If you’re in the mood for something on the creepy side, or if you prefer your horror bloodless, then The Vanishing makes for the perfect purchase. Especially with such a fantastic video upgrade. Highly recommended.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00LUSUVNM]