Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane, Jason Patric, Alex Haydon, Peter Facinelli, Aleksei Archer, Kristopher Wente, John D. Hickman
Written by: Peter Facinelli
Directed by: Peter Facinelli
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 115
Date: 08/21/2020

The Vanished (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Disappearing Cracked

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The nutty thriller The Vanished is built solely around a twist ending, but the scenes leading up to it aren't intriguing or suspenseful; rather, they're aggravating and nonsensical, and the ending feels unearned.

Happy family Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche) and their ten year-old daughter Taylor are taking a vacation in their RV, hoping to spend a quiet Thanksgiving together at a lakeside campground. But as they're setting up, Taylor suddenly disappears from the trailer, and a frantic Paul and Wendy can't find her anywhere. Sheriff Baker (Jason Patric) promises he'll do everything in his power to help, but Paul and Wendy secretly begin their own investigation. They suspect several of their neighbors and campground workers, but their efforts to find clues lead to more trouble. Where has Taylor really gone?

The movie's original title was Hour of Lead, taken from Emily Dickinson's poem "After great pain, a formal feeling comes." It was a less generic title, but not quite fitting due to the fact that the behavior of the distraught parents is more along the lines of idiotic and irresponsible. It's understandable that a parent would want to do anything to help their kids, but Paul and Wendy's choices are just flat-out dumb, and usually result in either embarrassment or violence.

Writer/director Peter Facinelli, who also appears as the sheriff's deputy, also provides many red herrings, which, in retrospect become nothing more than crazy coincidences. In addition, we get some typical jump-scares (that darn cat!) and a long, distracting nightmare sequence. The ending is meant to abruptly return sympathy to poor Paul and Wendy, but by the time it happens, our forgiveness is too far gone. If only The Vanished had found a way to build sympathy — and suspense — all along, the whopper of a finale might have made a very entertaining movie indeed.

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