In this haunting Dutch thriller, a woman mysteriously vanishes one day while on vacation with her boyfriend. The boyfriend becomes obsessed with her disappearance, and spends years fruitlessly trying to find out the truth about what happened to her. Meanwhile, we meet the man responsible for her disappearance, a loving father and husband with a dark secret. As our hero closes in on the truth, he must decide what's worse: never knowing the truth, or discovering that the truth is more horrible than he ever imagined.
Having seen, a good decade or so ago, the American remake (made by the same director, George Sluzier), I was not expecting The Vanishing to fuck me up so bad. The remake hews closely to the original, and although it changes the ending (to a happy cop out), I still knew how this one would end. And yet, to credit the film making, this was an at times almost unbearably intense and disturbing experience for me, one that I had trouble shaking afterward.
Without delving into much detail, the film, even during the earlier, low key scenes, creates a palpable sense of tension and paranoia. The visual style is plain and unadorned, but suggests menace in perfectly chosen details (a crushed soda can on the ground, an unexpected character sitting in the background of an otherwise uneventful shot) and the implication of a threat always existing just off camera.
It's a dark, almost joyless (with the possible exception of what might have been some extremely dark comedy involving the villain) horror story that works its way to one of the most truly horrific, unnerving conclusions in the genre. If you don't know what the ending is, I don't want to spoil it, but it's a gut-punch; shocking and scary, and yet completely inescapable.