The review was written for my college student-run newspaper. I’d watched the 1988 Dutch original, so I’m not precisely sure why I neglected to note that the inferior remake was directed by the exact same person: George Sluizer. That seems like a pertinent detail for a film critic to share.
The Vanishing is a prime example of how Hollywood can take a great idea and completely muck it up.
Based on an intriguing and unsettling 1991 Dutch film of the same name, The Vanishing involves a man’s obsession with his girlfriend’s mysterious disappearance while on vacation. Kiefer Sutherland gives a strong performance, convincingly capturing the man’s feverish intensity.
After a frustrating three years, Sutherland finally comes face to face with his girlfriend’s abductor (Jeff Bridges). Bridges offers to reveal what happened to her, but he insists that there is only one way to do this. Sutherland must experience what she experienced.
It’s certainly a chilling prospect, and many of the film’s best scenes involve Bridges’s methodical manipulation of Sutherland. Sutherland’s fixation on learning the details of his girlfriend’s ordeal makes him willing to do anything, and Bridges uses it to his advantage. Sutherland’s new romantic interest (played by Nancy Travis) adds excess baggage to the film and dulls the suspense.
The film really falls apart at the end. Rather than stick with the movie’s subtle yet creepy tone, the filmmakers choose to finish up with a predictable, excessive, completely unbelievable ending. Every supposed shock in the last twenty minutes of The Vanishing will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a thriller or horror film before.
If the story still intrigues you, try combing the local video stores for a copy of the fine foreign film that initially told the tale. If you insist on seeing the Americanized version, just remember that an awful lot was added in the translation.