Disappear Completely (Desaparecer Por Completo) Image

Disappear Completely (Desaparecer Por Completo)

By Andrew Stover | December 1, 2022

Obsession and ambition are the devil’s spawn in director Luis Javier Henaine’s Disappear Completely (Desaparecer Por Completo). This Mexican supernatural horror film, written by Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes, is about a cursed photographer who oversteps his bounds to appease his editor, his audience, and himself. Crime scene photojournalist Santiago (Harold Torres) yearns to be a respected artist whose photographs are seen in galleries, not just in newspapers. His frustration is not with the photos themselves but with the headlines that his editor comes up with to attract and shock readers.

The opening scene shows Santiago wandering into a crime scene in a cocksure manner as he bribes the cops to be first on the scene. He calls out to the suspect being arrested and smarmily says, “Hey, smile,” and proceeds to take a picture of the person in cuffs. Santiago then gets eerily close to the deceased victim and takes multiple photos. This, in all its sobriety and coldness, lays the foundation of Santiago’s mentality and cultivates an uneasiness that spreads like a virus, or rather, more like a curse.

But, before you go and call him the next Louis Bloom (the sociopathic lead in Nightcrawler), Disappear Completely shows that Santiago is not irredeemable — at least not yet. He has a long-time girlfriend for whom he cares deeply, and his artistic struggle to make his work mean something is understandable. That said, Santiago is devoted to his job to the extent that it is a flaw, one that ends up being his undoing.

“…breaking into a crime scene to photograph a dead senator, the protagonist finds himself cursed.”

After breaking into a crime scene to photograph a dead senator, the protagonist finds himself cursed. The curse develops slowly, starting with the loss of smell. The fashion in which Henaine gets these physical symptoms across is singular, disorienting, yet completely absorbing. Santiago discovers his loss of smell after not being able to smell a rotting corpse. As Santiago begins to lose his sense of hearing, Henaine cuts off the sound completely.

Santiago’s predicament is a ticking clock scenario. The fear settles in gradually for him and audiences alike as Henaine manipulates sound and image to reflect Santiago’s worsening state. Disappear Completely takes a detour into the supernatural, which is where it falls victim to rushed plotting and off-putting savagery (there’s a scene involving a dog that is unnecessarily graphic, so proceed with caution). Nevertheless, Aguado-Fentanes’ incisive script sprinkles in relevant discourse regarding the pitfalls of ambition and pop culture’s unusual obsession with true crime.

Santiago takes grotesque photos of victims without ever considering how their loved ones might be affected. “Waiting for something terrible to happen so you can go see” perfectly sums up how people today desire to observe real-life tragedy. Our lead merely fulfills that urge with his vivid contributions, painting him as a morally suspect and misguided protagonist. He not only loses his senses but goes on to neglect his humanity. Torres is superb as Santiago, bringing a deadly desperation to the role. He communicates it by how he behaves in an increasingly erratic, meekly obedient manner that serves to show how Santiago is reacting out of fear and, more importantly, self-interest.

With sensible use of sound and setting, Henaine directs a photojournalist’s unraveling with subtle, eerie ferocity. At the end of the day, we all wish to contribute something to society, but not all contributions are free of negativity or consequence. Under the veneer of a blood-curdling horror venture with heightened narrative beats, Disappear Completely is a thrilling film about unchecked ambition.

Disappear Completely (Desaparecer Por Completo) (2022)

Directed: Luis Javier Henaine

Written: Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes

Starring: Harold Torres, Tete Espinoza, Vicky Araico, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Disappear Completely (Desaparecer Por Completo) Image

"…blood-curdling horror..."

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