The Disappeared (2008)

OCTOBER 13, 2008


You never want to be the guy in the crowd during a Q&A who asks a question based on his interpretation of the film, and turns out to have misinterpreted the thing, but that was me yesterday at The Disappeared. Luckily, two things saved me from total embarrassment. One was that the director said I wasn’t the first to come to the conclusion I had asked about (actually I never “asked” anything, he told me I was wrong before I got to the actual question). The other spoils the movie, so stop reading since it’s not out yet and thus you probably haven’t seen it.

The second thing is that who the FUCK doesn’t think “the guy’s a vampire!” when he leaves two bite marks on a person’s neck, has a big tombstone outside his office for a guy named “Alucard”, and has obvious ties to vampire mythology (he works in a cemetery, has upside down crosses on his door, etc). Director Johnny Kevorkian said he deliberately left it open to interpretation (so I guess I’m not “wrong”, despite how he reacted), but there were no other noticeable “clues” to go on. As my buddy said afterwards, maybe there was also some blatant werewolf or zombie imagery that we somehow missed. But whatever, I’m sticking with the vampire angle.

Especially since that’s part of why I liked the movie, despite the fact that its very slow and has the absolute worst “twist” reveal I’ve ever seen. Throughout the movie, the main guy is talking to a girl who lives next door. She turns out to be a ghost, and that’s, you know, whatever, but then he pulls out a newsclipping about his kidnapped brother (the movie is about his search for the kid) and sees, right below it, an article about how that very girl killed herself. Come on! You never bothered looking at the rest of the goddamn piece of paper you carry around with you? I half expected him to flip the paper over and see some other headlines that may have been useful to read. “Gravekeeper Ballan Is A Vampire”, for example.

Still though, I liked the moody atmosphere and rather depressing account of what this kid is going through. He blames himself for the kid’s disappearance (as does his father), and while the supernatural elements are not particularly well handled, Kevorkian does a fine job of keeping you interested even when not much is happening. Harry Treadaway is quite good in the lead: a nice find (he’s also in City of Ember I guess) and very believable actor. I also enjoyed Greg Wise’s performance as his father. He’s sort of playing the Marshall Bell role in Stand By Me (“It should have been you Gordo!”), which is a tough role to play since he’s not necessarily a bad guy but at the same time he’s making our hero miserable. The acting across the board is above average.

I also like how it was shot. It’s filmed entirely in London, but not the London you usually see. It’s a very working class, blue-collar type of area, and the cinematography is very cold and bleak as well. Diego Rodriguez is definitely a talent to keep an eye on, and hopefully will find his way into more mainstream work. It’s becoming increasingly rare to see a film in which the cinematography leaves any sort of impression on me, so when it does, I almost want to go out and see the DPs other films based on his name alone.

Another small detail I appreciated was the relative lack of timelessness. The date on a tombstone and a brief appearance of a cell phone aside, the movie could take place anytime of the past 20-25 years; all tapes are analog, people use VCRs, etc. There are no “real world” elements to date the film such as a news report about president Bush or references to pop culture either. I see a lot of movies that are very much of their time, but this is not one of them. I can’t think of any recent film that Kevorkian may have watched and said “I should do that!” before making this film, the way I do with other films (including a couple in this very festival, such as Gates of Hell). Had the ending not been so maddeningly obtuse (and left wide open for a sequel, to the extent where it almost feels like the movie is missing a final reel) and that dumbass twist not presented so clumsily, this would be one of the festival’s best films. Instead it’s merely good, but with the promise of better things to come from the talent involved.

What say you?


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