13 October 2011

Fin's Review: The Vanishing

The Vanishing was my choice this week at horror club and like Martin the previous week it is a film that I had not seen but had read much of the hype surrounding it. The Vanishing is a film that receives 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Mark Kermode said that when he first saw this film he thought he was going to faint with terror and I could list many more equally awestruck reviews. One thing is beyond debate it is a unique and fascinating film and is such a change from the last 30 years of horror film that it can seem like it doesn't belong in the same genre. This was a question we all asked after watching The Vanishing is this a horror? Ultimately I think it is unequivocally a horror film and a very strong one at that. The Vanishing is a throw back to the 60's when the genres of psychological thriller and horror merged into one. George Sluizer's 1988 film would sit comfortable beside some of Hitchcock's psychological thrillers of the 1960s. Having said that this is a film that is spoken about in hushed whispers by some fans and critics who view it in an almost worshipful way. The hyperbole surrounding this film makes the first time viewer expect a terrifying, white knuckle thrill ride with an ending that truly shocks. In reality the films strengths are a lot more subtle than that and the much vaunted ending is perhaps not ground breaking but rather a continuation of what I found to be a slightly unpleasant bleak European nihilism.

The Vanishings story is both simple and sinister. A young couple are on holiday in France when they stop at a service station for a drink. Time goes by and the wife who went to buy the drinks does not return. From this simple set up we descend into a story which is concerned with obsession and madness. Whether this is Rex's obsession with finding out what became of his wife or the extremely sinister obsession of Raymond Lemorne to commit the perfect murder. This obsession becomes madness most obviously in Lemorne's character but also in the way that Rex becomes to define his entire existence with the search for his wife. Rex neglects every other aspect of life in this search for not only his wife but perhaps more importantly the answers to the questions which have haunted him for the three years since his wifes disappearance. This film is very much a two man show and so it's success hinges upon the performance of Donnadieu as Raymond and Berovoets as Rex. Berovoets provides a solid performance however I would argue that his character is underwritten and he becomes a vehicle through which we are shown the sheer calculating evil of Raymond. Donnadieu give an extraordinary performance of controlled, smug, calculating evil. Raymond Lemorne is to my money one of the most hateful characters in the history of horror. It is Lemorne who moves The Vanishing from the plane of simple Psychological mystery to the realm of horror. The most interesting aspect of this film is the rejection of genre conventions by director George Sluizer both in terms of Psychological mystery and horror. Thrillers are usually base upon the concept of keeping the truth a mystery from both characters in the story and the audience. The Vanishing rejects this and although Rex remains ignorant we are aware of the villain and his techniques and motives from a very early stage. It is to Sluizer's great credit that this approach does not destroy any tension and works to create a sense of growing dread. From a horror perspective this film is even more unique. Almost all horror is built upon the irrational the paranormal the bizarre. Sluizer creates a horror film that rejects this approach. Raymond is so horrific because he appears so rational, sane and calculating. In the Vanishing extreme rationality becomes the horror as Raymond commits the crimes for no other reason than because he can. His evil becomes mundane, methodical and completely divorced from emotion. 

A psychological horror classic which really deserves a watch. If you can see it without seeing the hype that surrounds this film you experience will be all the better for it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, this really is a film about obsession. I just wish we had slightly more insight into Rex's character so that we could fully buy into his actions and emphasise with him.

    I do like the fact that, like an episode of Columbo, you know who the killer is but it doesn't deter from the story.


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