For, Oct. 31, 2014

With its new Blu-ray upgrade on the boutique label Criterion Collection, Halloween seems like the perfect day to offer a pitch for the 1988 Dutch suspense film "The Vanishing," in French and Dutch with English subtitles.

When I reviewed this picture for the Deseret News more than 20 years ago, I said it was more "Hitchcockian" than most other attempts to invoke the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, and that it offers surprising twists on the usual thriller cliches.

Watching it again my impressions haven't changed.

The plot is deceptively simple: A young couple from Amsterdam on vacation in the south of France stops at a gas station and they frolic in a nearby park for a short time. Then the wife heads to a nearby convenience store to get some drinks. But she never returns.


         Johanna ter Steege and Gene Vervoets star in 'The Vanishing'

The film then shifts to what seems to be an entirely different story about a family man obsessed with good vs. evil. And how this tale eventually converges with the first evolves into a fascinating, albeit creepy, cat-and-mouse game. Just not the one you'll be expecting.

This is a low-key horror film that is not only without gore but is virtually without violence. There is also very little coarse language. A PG fright flick if ever there was one, although the film is not actually rated.

 There was an Americanized remake of "The Vanishing" in 1993 starring Kiefer Sutherland, Jeff Bridges, Nancy Travis and Sandra Bullock, and it was directed by the same filmmaker, George Sluizer — but his original Dutch version is far superior.