Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Peter Facinelli (who is best-known for playing Carlisle in the Twilight series), The Vanished is a slow-burn mystery-thriller benefitting from a talented cast. Perhaps a tad overlong, but still involving, the film is mostly compelling until a preposterous third-act twist causes the movie to fall apart.
The film tells the story of a couple whose daughter goes missing on a camping trip, sending them on a desperate quest to find her and causing them to take any means necessary when the police can’t find any leads. Blending elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and dysfunctional family drama, the movie mostly balances all of its threads until an attempt to tie them all together goes terribly awry.
For much of the first act, the audience will be invested in the film because of the mystery aspect of trying to find the missing girl. However, as the focus shifts to the feelings of paranoia that the characters are feeling for each other, the tension begins to rise and the movie admittedly becomes pretty gripping. Strategically-placed twists keep the viewer on edge.
The audience will immediately sympathize with the main characters because of their situation, and the development that goes into their relationship on top of that, but a lot of the conflict feels rather generic. It would have been nice to see some of the internal elements explored with a bit more depth.
More intriguing are the supporting characters, which unexpectedly have more layers than the protagonist. This is the case particularly with the group of players considered to be suspects, as Facinelli’s script does an excellent job of keeping the viewer guessing who might be the culprit and who is trying to help.
The single biggest strength of the film are its performances. Thomas Jane and Anne Heche bring a lot of humanity to their roles, underplaying some of the more drastic and over-the-top moments in a way that makes them still feel believable. The best scenes are those in which Jane and Heche get to act off of each other.
On a technical level, the movie is admittedly a bit lacking. It’s shot in a competent but very conventional way. The cinematography and score are rather bland, doing little to assist the suspense, and even more disappointing, Facinelli doesn’t take advantage of the forest setting to create any particularly memorable scenes.
The Vanished starts very strong and whimpers in the end, but minus the last fifteen minutes, it’s better than the average B-movie thriller. For those looking for edge-of-your-seat suspense, this one will mostly satisfy.
The Vanished is now available on VOD.