The Vanished Review

The film

Tell me that Ingmar Bergman made a bad film and I'd have to defer to your better judgement. Tell me that chocolate is bad for me and I would accept the overwhelming medical evidence. You could even try to convince me that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have been overwhelmingly positive influences, and not the agents of international marketing and cultural imperialism, and I would listen carefully, bite my tongue, and reluctantly accept that that could be true. But if anyone tries to convince me that children are anything other than monstrous shortarses with a blanket permission to destroy the peace of any public environment, I simply will not listen to them.

I know that to quote Whitney Houston, and, intriguingly according to Google, the British National Party, "children are the future", and I know that "we were all young once", and I realise that hating brats makes me a social outcast, but I do, I just can't help myself. So when I tell you that The Vanished begins with a scene where a young schoolboy's pleas are ignored when he knocks at his parents door and then gets chased by a man with a cudgel who stuffs him in a large box, you will know that this is a film that has already got my sorry ass on its side. That the rest of the film is spent explaining why this monster in shorts is richly deserving of his treatment can only convince you that my misanthropy has finally found the perfect cinematic mirror.

For well adjusted people, I am quite sure that the movie's opening is shocking and causes the spectator to demand an explanation. It is a truly wonderful beginning and from there we are introduced to Souta in the way of a flashback to his horrible youth as a latchkey kid to a dead loss mother. When we join him in the present we find him investigating child exploitation much to his magazine boss' disgust who sends him off to the country to look into the strange case of a young child found with out any internal organs. When the dead child walks out the mortuary, Souta follows clues which lead him to a remote village where 30 children disappeared 40 years ago. He then meets two of the children and they are wearing the same uniforms and have the same names and faces as two of the disappeared. Stranger still, the two remaining households in the village live in fear and ignore the children's pleading to be let in. Souta soon learns the truth and is an unwitting accomplice to carnage.

Written and directed by Makoto Tanaka, The Vanished is an unpredictable and challenging entertainment. Once the macabre opening gives way to Souta's investigation, the movie manages to maintain the interest and suspense through the various reveals that offer comparison to stories like The Midwich Cuckoos. The best attributes of the film is that it does not seek to over-explain and allows the viewer to enjoy the relatively restrained violence and the build up to each scare by providing interesting characters and offbeat ideas. By introducing Souta's awful childhood he is revealed as someone whose interest in the case is driven by empathy rather than pure curiosity, a man who is still a bullied child at heart, and the adult characters he meets are Coen like in their interesting eccentricity.

Less positively, the film does have a botched ending which requires formulaic thinking to assume that Souta has acquired the only young adult woman in the cast as his partner. The computer generated effects are effective in the revealing of the children's nature, and the shock moments are well delivered by using a real life aesthetic rather than a heightened look. The adult actors are fine, Souta is played by a Tadanobu Asano double and his main squeeze is pretty but odd looking as well, and the dreadful children's performance are a mix of winsomeness and deadly potential, something that I believe requires no pretence on their part.

A surprising and relatively original film, a movie which will horrify those of you committed to continuing the species, and it provides further evidence that my warped conception of offspring is entirely correct. The short running time allows for little fat on the tale, but that is a real benefit in a world where scary movies can go on far too long. The Vanished is a good, effective horror flick.

The disc

The photography of the film is rather downbeat and the feature presentation here is loyal to the lack of brilliant colours. The transfer is anamorphic at the original aspect ratio and a little soft looking with detail away from the centre of each frame lacking definition. Colours are autumnal and true and the contrast is confident in dealing with the darker sequences. I am sure that it would have been possible to have been sharper, but this is a goodish budget presentation.

The sound comes in a single stereo Japanese track which is clear and consistent and strong enough. The English subtitles are less impressive with occasional mis-spellings and grammar that requires a little decoding. The single extra here is a photo gallery which measured up against the Japanese release is paltry as that disc has interviews, and a trailer (albeit without English subs).


Something of an enjoyable surprise available here as a budget disc. For the rather small price and the lack of other options, I think fans of offbeat grown-up horror will be happy to pick this disc up.

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out of 10

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