Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Foriegn horrors

There's a lot that IFC doesn't do very well. Although the name originally stood for "Independent Film Channel" (does it still stand for anything? Or, like ESPN, are the initials now officially just a meaningless set of initials?), if you look at the schedule you can find a lot of stuff that's probably not independent, and stuff that's definitely not film, such as the seemingly endless reruns of the TV show Arrested Development. That, and the fact that they run maybe three movies a morning and repeat them two or three times times in the afternoon. Once in a while, though, the programmers do dig out a gem. One of those gems is airing tomorrow morning at 6:05 AM ET and 11:00 AM: the original version of The Vanishing.

You might know that Hollywood remake that stars Kiefer Sutherland, but accept no imitations: the original is vastly superior. For those who don't know the movie, the plot involves a young Dutch couple, Rex and Saskia, on vacation driving through France. The two get in an argument, and stop at one of those roadside service areas, where Saskia gets out to do an errand. Quite some time passes, and she doesn't come back. Rex goes in to investigate, and it seems as though Saskia has vanished, without a trace. The case becomes a bit famous, although Saskia is never found, and three years later, Rex has found another girlfriend, settling into some semblance of normalcy.

That is, until he gets a letter from Lemorne, a man claiming to have information on what happened to the disappeared woman. This turns Rex's life upside-down, as the new girlfriend has difficulty understanding just how much the old girlfriend's disappearance affected him. Lemorne's, who is leading a seeming double life as a high school teacher and family man on the one hand, and a possible adbuctor on the other hand, offers Rex the chance to find out what happened to Saskia, but at a price. Rex will have to come back to the scene of the crime, and possibly become a victim himself all over again, in order to discover the truth about Saskia. However, if the need to know is that great....

The Vanishing is one of the more interesting horror movies out there, although it's not horror in the traditional ways Americans have come to expect from a horror movie. Val Lewton liked to talk about the horror that is unseen, but the horror of The Vanishing isn't really even about that. Lewton meant it in the sense of horror being what we imagine, but in The Vanishing, it's more horror in the sense that we all have a dark side: Rex's dark side being his obsession with having to know what happened, even if his curiosity could kill him; and Lemorne's dark double life.

The Vanishing has also been released to DVD. It's one that's well worth watching.

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