Review: Spoorloos ("The Vanishing", 1988, George Sluizer)

A couple in love is on a vacation trip. When they stop and have a break from driving at some petrol station, the woman is kidnapped. Three years later, her boyfriend is receiving letters from the kidnapper, and goes on a frantic search for the truth...

Oh. My. God. "Spoorloos" aka "The Vanishing" is masterpiece of writing, and suspense.

It begins with some personal moments of a loving relationship, but there are some undertones - and soon the woman, Saskia, goes missing. What follows is a fascinating look at the psyche of her boyfriend, Rex, as he gets lost in search of inner peace, and the kidnapper, who proceeds with half naive, half devilish insanity. It all heads towards an unavoidable conclusion, but "Spoorloos" takes its time. Technically, it's a very simple production, but it drags you in with its intricate writing, editing, and camera work, the beautiful, mostly calm settings, and unobtrusive acting. While, slowly, the horror starts creeping in, as you begin to guess what might have happened, and what is yet to come...

As all the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall together, you realize the true quality of what you're seeing. "Spoorloos" is bright, precise, and just beautiful from the first scene, but when the end credits roll, it has become a brilliant, scary monster. There are mere seconds of physical violence in this film, there's no gore, no vampires, no undead, and nothing that really qualifies as special effect. But there's also no comic relief in it, and its self-awareness doesn't pour into the story. It's lighthearted when required, but nonetheless serious throughout, creating a mesmerizing, uneasy mood that only grows. Real horror is all in the mind.

"Spoorloos" is a very sad, very not-dumb, highly thought-provoking, and hair-raisingly scary low-budget movie, beautifully filmed and acted, that combines some Hitchcock-ian suspense with a dramatic build-up a la "Smilla's Sense of Snow" and the simplicity of "Man bites Dog" into an effective, shockingly realistic psycho thriller. 

Probably very disturbing for the average viewer, an absolute must-watch for fans of the genre, and a potential hidden gem for "true" horror geeks.

Verdict: Super scary... 9/10



Trailer video:

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