You know that when you vacation, with your family, in the middle of nowhere, and the first thing you see is a giant black crow in the air, that you should’ve gone to Disneyland.
And that’s all you’re going to hear for the rest of your miserable short life. “Daddy, why did you take us to a ghost town in the middle of nowhere to die? The THOMPSON kids got to go to Daytona!”
Bad vacations are a fairly universal horror movie theme, and Disappearance is no exception. Whether it’s sending the kids off to Sleepaway Camp to be slashed to bits by androgynous monstrousities, or being eaten to death by sharks or bugs or slugs or dessert topping at the beach, (all ACTUAL MOVIE THEMES) vacation horror stories run the gamut.
And in this case, Disappearance telegraphs its punches very well. When asked about the old mining town of Weaver, no local knows where it is. Sure, it’s only a stone’s throw away from where their butts are currently planted, but asking them about it gets the same response as asking government agents about Area 51. “Huh? What? Weaver? WHAT Weaver?” And Weaver is definitely a screwed-up little town. Just outside town, a plane is embedded nose-first in the ground. Cell phones die completely, compasses refuse to work, and Weaver is surprisingly well preserved. After lunch one day, it seems, everyone just LEFT. Furniture still in place, plates still on tables, the whole nine yards. Chances are there’s even still cash in the registers. So what could have turned Weaver into a ghost town almost overnight, and kept it from being looter bait for better than fifty years?
Chances are, the same thing that’s just turned the family SUV into a thirty thousand dollar paperweight. The sun is setting, and the car is dead. Hopefully, THEY won’t be….
Another family has been there recently, and they left a camera behind. A videotape left in the camera tells the harrowing story of the vanished family. One by one, the video family disappears, and our current family is badly shaken up. They try to rationalize it, and only partially succeed.
It’s obvious everyone’s terrified, and with good reason. Strange events continue to assault the family, and troubles within make things even harder to confront. Just when things seem to be at their worst, an inexplicable even takes place, fixing the problem. A stolen car vanishes only to reappear in the desert. A family member vanishes only to turn up within a couple days. All of this causes, or SHOULD cause, the viewer to wonder just what is going on…and the ending will come as a great surprise.
A superabundance of scary moments, followed up with the sheer creepy atmosphere of a ghost town in dark AND in light, makes Disappearance a suspense tale to match the best of them.
Not that it doesn’t suffer from its share of problems. The family daughter is a classic Cassandra character–she’s always right, but no one seems to care, or pay attention. Her word is inevitably proven truth, but everyone around her seeks to silence her. It’s a classic part of horror filmmaking that verges on the cliche, and shouldn’t have been used.
The pat explanation for the town’s bizarrities and woes, the detonation of a neutron bomb, verges on the overly convenient.
But these problems are fairly easily overcome by the plusses, and Disappearance will be a suspenseful shocker, tame enough for family night viewing.
The special features include Spanish only subtitles, filmographies, a trailer, closed captioning for televisions with that option, and perplexing previews of totally unrelated films Treasure Island, Avalanche Alley, and Daydream Believers, for some strange reason.
Virtually no blood, no gore, and precious little bad language make Disappearance one to vanish off video store shelves.