Vanishing, The (1988): Dutch Thriller–Scariest Film Ever Made?

An unnerving tale of dread and obsession, George Sluizer’s “The Vanishing” is one of the scariest and most horrifying films I have ever seen.

Based on Time Krabbe’s The Golden Egg, which I have not read, The Vanishing is a deeply disturbing psychological thriller about a young Dutch man’s (Gene Bervoets) search for his girlfriend (Joanna de Steege) after she disappears at a rest stop in a gas station during a trip.

Over the course of three years, the man obsessively searches for her, using his spare time to put up posters and leave handbills, hoping that someone will give him a clue to the mystery of her disappearance.   It soon become clear that long with his love and sense of duty, he is also motivated by a primal curiosity.

The kidnapper, having watched the man for some time, is intrigued by his increasing obsession and finally contacts him. He then gives the man the opportunity to learn firsthand of his girlfriend’s fate. The film, frightening from the get-go and unfolding with extremely precise mise-en-scene and attention to detail, move to a chilling ending seldom seen in cinema.

An excellent craftsman, in complete control over technical matters, George Sluizer is also a cerebral director, intrigued by the true nature of evil and the nature of obsession.

Sluizer remade “The Vanishing” in an American version four years after the release of the original Dutch film, starring Jeff Bridges.  Rather inexplicably, he changed the shocking ending, which gave the Dutch film such immediacy and power.