January 13, 2013

Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (1988)
Starring a bunch of Dutch people

Comments:   This is going to be a different review than most of my other ones.  And the reason for that is because Spoorloos is a different type of a movie.  This isn't a movie like Top Secret that I have seen over two hundred times.  Nor is it a movie like The Quick and the Dead that I love watching because it is fun.  And it is certainly nothing like Honeymoon in Vegas, which is light and breezy and quotable.  No, Spoorloos is kind of the opposite of fun.  And it is kind of the opposite of light and breezy and quotable.

In fact, some people (like me) would say that Spoorloos is just about the most disturbing horror movie they have ever seen.

Spoorloos is the story of a couple who are on vacation in France.  Their names are Rex and Saskia, they are in the twenties, and one day in the middle of their vacation they stop at a mini mart.  And then about ten minutes later Saskia is gone.  She mysteriously vanishes right off the face of the Earth.

And Rex spends the entire rest of his life obsessed with trying to find out what happened to her.

Saskia, right before she vanishes

Seriously, that is all I am going to tell you about Spoorloos.  Because that is all you need to know.  A girl goes missing, and her boyfriend tries to find out what happened to her.  And, well at a certain point, you have to weigh the question.  Is it better to know, or is it better not to know?  Because Rex spends the rest of his life searching for her, and then when he finally gets close to the answer he has to ask himself that question.

How badly do you really want to know?

How much will it affect your sanity if you never find out?

Whatever happened to the lovely miss Saskia?

I wish I could sit here and wax nostalgic about how many times I have seen Spoorloos and how awesome it is.  I wish I could go through it scene by scene and point out how it could be the single most effective horror/suspense movie that has ever been made.  But I can't.

And I will tell you why.

The reason I can't do that is because I have only seen it twice.  And it fucking messed me up both times.  And I don't want to see it again for a while.  

And if you know anything about me, and how many horror movies I have seen and loved and become desensitized towards throughout the years, well that is saying something.  No horror movie has EVER messed me up.  There has never been a horror movie that has ever been made that I would say is too disturbing to watch, and that I wouldn't recommend for sensitive people.  Well, except for one.  Except for Spoorloos.  

On my list of disturbing horror movies there will always be Spoorloos and then under it comes everything else.


Spoorloos came out in 1988 and when it hit theaters, man, it was just a jaw dropper.  It is a Dutch movie (which means it is subtitled), and when it came over to America and hit the film festivals it just freaked everyone the fuck out.  Although let me make this abundantly clear to you.  This is NOT a slasher movie.  It almost can't even be called a horror movie.  I don't think there is a drop of blood in the entire movie.  In any case it is certainly not a gore fest like you would expect from such an extremely disturbing horror movie.

What Spoorloos does is it gets under your skin.  And it stays there.  And it will never crawl out.  It is the type of movie that you will think about for years afterwards.  It is the type of movie that will just gnaw at your psyche and never leave.  It is one of those rare movie experiences where you will remember exactly where you were and exactly who you were sitting with when you were watching it.  And like I said before, I almost feel guilty even recommending it to you.  It is that effective.

Spoorloos came to America in 1991 but I didn't hear about it for about ten years.  It was one of those movies that just sort of floated around on "best horror movie" lists and I would hear people talking about it, but I never really made the effort to track it down and watch it.  I don't know why.  Probably because I don't watch a lot of foreign movies.

But then one day in 2001 I tracked down a copy of it and I watched it with my wife.  And.... woah.  Yikes.  You talk about a life changer.  

Like I said, I have only watched it one other time since then and I think that might be just about enough for me.  I am fine not having nightmares for the rest of my life, thank you very much.   Yes, you guessed it.  Spoorloos is amazing.  It is also good old fashioned nightmare fuel.

Hi, FYI, want to know what happened to your girlfriend?

Okay so here is the deal.  I don't want to write any more about this movie.  If you have the balls, and you think you are up for it, I want you track down a copy and watch it for yourself.  Because I can guarantee that 90% of the people who are reading this have never seen Spoorloos before.  In fact I am guessing that most of the people reading this have never even heard of it.

Oh, you might have seen the remake, THE VANISHING, which was the American version that starred Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland.  You might have seen THAT piece of shit.  And yes, I know that there are a lot of people out there who were even kind of scared by the remake.  But get this.  The American version is only about 10% as disturbing as the original Dutch version.  Again, if you liked the American one, try to go out and get your hands on a copy of the real one.  It will blow that stupid American remake away.  And keep in mind, I am not really a fan of foreign movies.  But when it comes to Spoorloos, I will make an exception.

In summary, Spoorloos just about the single most effective horror movie I have ever seen.  Ever.  In fact I would be willing to go on record and say that no other movie even comes close.  Yes, you can take The Exorcist, and you can throw it right out the window.  Spoorloos blows any other scary and disturbing movie away.  You will never forget it.

And again, this is NOT a gore movie.  Have some faith in me, if I recommend a horror movie to you guys it isn't going to be a big gore fest.  I am going to recommend movies that are psychological, and that are subtle, and that are disturbing.   And no movie does that combination any better than Spoorloos.

Like I said, I have seen Spoorloos twice, and I honestly don't ever really want to see it again.  Twice was enough for me.  But for you?  Well you really need to see it at least once.  It is the very definition of "a movie that needs more love and that more people need to know about."  And then once you see it and it haunts you for the rest of your life too, then you can recommend it to others and spread the legend of Spoorloos.  

And then we can end this nonsense once and for all about The Exorcist being the scariest movie of all time.

I mean, my goodness.  Just check out the IMDB reviews that I posted below.  No other movie generates the kind of feedback that Spoorloos does.  There is no wonder it currently holds a 100% positive review score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Name another horror movie you can say that about.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Spoorloos

Deeply upsetting and extremely disturbing - 22 July 2007
Whenever any conversation about creepy films comes up I always mention this one. Those who have seen it scream 'That film is incredible!' while the rest want to know the plot. Well the plot is very simple but even so undeniably intriguing. A couple stop at a petrol station and she goes in to get coffee. She never comes out. That's it. What then happens it that we see the third person involved in her fate and this is why the film really gets under your skin. It's the sheer normality of this character who constantly has to push himself, test himself to see how far he can go. This is the only film I have ever watched which has actually given me a sleepless night. I ended up pacing the flat unable to forget about the fate of the characters in my head. Unusual yes but this film really does give one nightmares. I saw it in 1991 and I have not seen it since. I don't particularly want to because I can still remember it vividly 16 years later. It really does not get any more effective than this. A real gem but keep it at arms length. It's a killer.

How powerful is this movie? You don't even need to see it to be disturbed by it. - 22 August 2009
I saw it with a friend when it was released. Then I went home and told my husband about it, and how impressed I was. He's not much of a moviegoer, but he's certainly sensitive to film: His favorites are The Third Man, Maltese Falcon, The Conversation-- all biggies. And when I rented "My Life as a Dog" and he started to watch it with me, he had to leave the room after the first ten minutes or so, saying, "This movie is going to be much too sad." Which, if you've seen that Lasse Hallstrom film, you know he pegged it.

Anyway, he asked about the plot of "The Vanishing." I told him, he listened, and that was the end of it. Or so I thought.

We're at a dinner party later that week, and I mention the movie. Someone asks about it, I start to describe it-- and my husband stops me. He says, "It's too disturbing to even hear the plot again."

I never mentioned it again. Nor have I watched it again, and don't think I ever could. But I am forever glad that I saw it that first time. A gripping story that demands more emotion from the audience than almost any other film I can name.

An absolutely chilling, deeply unsettling horror masterpiece - 28 December 2003
The Vanishing is a movie only those with ice in their veins can ever forget. The direction is absolutely brilliant, from the opening frames until the very end. I felt Saskia's fright when she thought she lost Rex initially, and her description of her dream made me feel chills. When she disappeared, Rex's combination of rage, frustration, anxiety, and grief was torture to watch. A particularly powerful moment was when he slammed the car door shut so hard the window crumbled into pieces.

Watching Rex become consumed in every way by his quest to find Saskia was also extremely difficult to watch, although it was certainly inevitable. I found the professor's description of his actions appalling in many cases, the most notable one being when he fixates on Saskia and we see his POV. Seeing Saskia warmly respond to him was devastating, knowing what would happen. Throughout the film there was an overwhelming sense of doom and isolation, like this was a cruel world where even in the most idyllic settings evil lurked everywhere and attempting to fight it was futile. Rex undergoes one of the most harrowing emotional ordeals of any movie character ever, and when he is at the end of his rope his crucial decision would seem so insane out of context but viewers understand that it really is his only choice. The shock ending, especially the way it was done, almost made me scream, and I will never forget the final shot. The Vanishing could be shown in any film class on direction, as an example of perfection. Material that could have been turned into just a mediocre thriller with would have seemed like a lame twist was turned by George Sluizer into an utterly harrowing filmgoing experience. And that is the right word, because a movie like The Vanishing is not just watched-it is experienced.

I estimate I have seen around 700 movies in my life, and horror is my favorite genre. I have only seen two films that left me so scared that after they ended I couldn't even move. One was Psycho, which I saw 10 years ago when I was only 12. The other one was just this year- The Vanishing.

The banality of Evil - 24 May 2010
Horror is probably my favourite genre, and I have seen a lot of horror movies. There were only a few movies that really left me as paralyzed and disturbed as this one.

In the very beginning, the director masterfully lets you know that something is wrong, but you don't know exactly what and how bad it really is. You are left as clueless as the main character and through your own uncertainty you might get involved more than you think you would. The story is simple and the evil in it is banal, everything is so normal and so horrible at the same time. And it surely is the banality of evil and the tormenting uncertainty that make this movie almost unbearably creepy. The ending is absolutely, absolutely shocking and I still really don't like to think about it.

If you don't like monsters, blood and pornographic violence and if you are looking for a smart, really creepy psycho-horror movie, this movie is for you. In my opinion, Spoorloos is what good horror is all about.

Horrifying - 13 April 2004
This movie gave me nightmares for...well, I'm still having them. Rex and Saskia are a young couple on vacation. They stop at a gas station, Saskia goes inside and never returns. Rex becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her and, when at last faced with the man who abducted Saskia, finally has the chance to find out. But there's one condition: Rex must surrender himself to Saskia's abductor and agree to experience the same thing she herself went through. The only trouble is, he has no idea what that might be, or even whether Saskia is alive or dead. Rex believes that the Not Knowing is the worst thing, but it isn't. The Knowing is the most horrible thing of all.

This is a powerful film that practically punches you in the stomach with its gritty realism. The performances are flawless and haunting, and the climax and aftermath, delivered with a quiet matter-of-factness, are the very definition of horror. This is real horror, the kind we try not to think about but which can happen, and has. If this film doesn't disturb you, I can't think of anything that will. Highly recommended, but only for people who are emotionally equipped to deal with the fear and the terror that the camera never flinches from. People with claustrophobia would be wise to stay far away from this film.

Absolutely Terrifying  - 5 October 2006
There are very few horror movies that even slightly frighten me, and this is probably true for most grown-ups. The monsters in those films are caricatures, blatantly cartoon-ish villains that are one dimensional and, as mature people know, don't really exist. That's because most of the truly frightening monsters in real life wear clothes just like the rest of us, have normal jobs just like the rest of us and are often living right next door, usually appearing to be ordinary family men and women on the surface. They will wave at you or nod as you pass them, if that's the custom in your area, or perhaps they will just stroll quietly by you and you will never know the horrors they commit. Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killing cannibal, might have not gotten caught when he did if it weren't for that horrific stench of decaying corpses that permeated from his apartment; because on the surface he looked and acted just like a quiet, ordinary guy. And what scares us most of all, if we admit it or not, is not only how ordinary he seemed but that at one time he was just like us, he just started down a twisted, psychotic path somewhere along the way, a path any of us could have fallen into had we been in similar circumstances. The real monsters are in all of us. Fortunately, most of them are completely inactive which gives us, on the surface, most of the time, a fairly placid and uneventful life.

Then you watch Spoorloos. It works so extraordinarily well because it feels like a documentary, a slice of life of the three main characters, Rex, Saskia and Raymond. Rex's girlfriend Saskia, just mysteriously vanishes and, being a realistic film, you see the horror, loss and near insane obsession such a loss would bring. You witness his wrenching emotions, excruciating emptiness and desperation in trying to discover someway, anyway to find her. And then you meet Raymond, the man who looks like an ordinary man with a seemingly happy family and, for no apparent reason, you realize he is responsible for Saskia disappearing from Rex's life. But what did he do with her? Surely this man, this seemingly ordinary man, could not have done anything terrible could he? What follows is the unfolding of a mystery that moves so painfully and methodically, developing into such a real horror story that you find yourself stunned when the credits roll. And what really is scariest of all, the character that sticks with you the most, is the monster. George Sluizer, the director, carefully leads you through the story from every character's perspective but the one whose eyes you see through the most, is the monster. You are left wondering "how could he?" "could I ever do something like that?" Like life, it does not have a neat, tidy happy ending but rather leaves you with too many disturbing questions of an extremely disturbing story. This is movie making and story telling at its best. Not in terms of incredible special effects or beautiful cinematography but understated, realistic acting of realistic characters and story. Spoorloos, along with Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" are the two most frightening movies I have seen for they have haunted me the most, due to their unflinching, realistic, disturbing stories.

As a footnote, the director, George Sluizer, was paid a pile of money to direct a pile of crap, an American version of this story, the English title was also "The Vanishing" but this turd was made five years later (1993). Do yourself a great favor and do not confuse the two if you are renting, look for the Dutch/French version made in 1988. Also, if you run into the real monster from Spoorloos, or someone just like him, send him to meet Todd Graff, who wrote the Hollywood version and all the others responsible for that awful mess.

Bad things happen to ordinary people - 8 July 2008
Meet Saskia and Rex. A young couple, in love and on holiday. During the long drive they get into a bit of a fight. Than they arrive at a gas-station. Saskia goes out to buy some drinks, Rex stays behind to fill up the car! Nothing out of the ordinary you might say, quite rightfully! But than Saskia doesn't return to the car! Rex searches for her but she's gone! We have of course witnessed her helping a wounded man, getting into his car and than he drugs her! But like Rex we are left wondering what happened. The quest for Saskia becomes Rex obsession and sole reason for living. There is a man who can help him, but will Rex be willing to pay the price? Yes it's slow-moving and there's no gore, but what this movie does expertly is getting under your skin. You can't help but be fascinated by Rex'quest which brings him on the trail of the man who knows. In the end Rex will know what has happened to Saskia. And so will we and we will never forget. That's the kind of movie this is. Chilling, the end will freak you out. I know it freaked me out

One of the Best "Horror" Movies out There - 17 February 2009
I normally don't do horror movies, especially American horror movies, considering them to be, on the whole, bubble gum trite for those with low IQ's and even lower artistic taste. "Spoorloos", however is a movie for the ages. Instead of relying on gore and special effects to try to outwit a dimwitted adolescent audience, it uses the old verities, such as plot, pacing, and genuine emotional involvement of its characters to rivet its audience to the screen, which is exactly what its director, George Sluizer, does with seemingly little effort. But don't be fooled, in Sluizer's hands this medium is an art form and he overwhelms his audience by the end of the movie. Don't miss this one. It will not give you sleepless nights, it will give you sleepless years!

needs to be seen in a darkened theater, not in the comfort of your own living room - 13 January 2011
One of the most chilling films in recent memory will likely send a shiver down even the most fearless spine, using not the easy shock of sudden scare tactics, but a more effective sense of accumulating dread. It begins not unlike a routine whodunit, when a Dutch couple's road trip abruptly ends after the young wife disappears, seemingly into thin air, and the bewildered husband begins an obsessive search for clues to what he believes (correctly, as it turns out) was a kidnapping. Parallel flashbacks reveal the methods and motivation of the man responsible (a memorable villain because he behaves so unlike a psychopath: he could be anyone at all), gradually revealing not just how and why he abducted a total stranger, but what his ultimate crime really was: the stuff nightmares are made of. The film is simple, elegant, and indelible, and unlike a lot of movies absolutely must be seen in a darkened theater for the proper claustrophobic impact.

* My favorite scene in Spoorloos

I have no favorite scenes in Spoorloos.  I just know that there was one scene in Spoorloos that pretty much raped me.

Spoorloos (The Vanishing) at the IMDB

Spoorloos (The Vanishing) at Wikipedia

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