Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Disappeared (2008)
Directed by Johnny Kevorkian

This is the first feature length film by Johnny Kevorkian.  If that is his real name.

I wanted to like this film.  I really did.

There's something good here, but unfortunately it gets lost under a forced supernatural narrative.  I understand that they wanted to make a ghost story, but someone somewhere along the way needed to tell them that it really wasn't necessary.  The story about a young man going crazy with guilt over his missing little brother is much more effective and scary than a story about ghosts and a cliched serial killer.

There really wasn't a single "ghostly" moment in this film that was necessary.  If the visions and whatnot had been in the kid's head, then it would have been disturbing.  And much more powerful.  There was no need to reveal the killer (especially with a brief shot of glowing red eyes), much less have him mysteriously escape in the end.

Oh yeah.  Spoiler alert.

I really don't understand the urge to put these supernatural elements into the films when the basic ideas are plenty disturbing.

Harry Treadaway's performance as Matthew was admirable.  He did a lot with a weak script and elevated the material into something that could have been much more effective if the writers and director had been willing to take a chance.  Indeed, if they had ditched the whole supernatural element and left the ending as an unsolved mystery disappearance, this could have been something altogether different.  The sort of film that people pay attention to.  The sort of film that makes careers.

Instead, it turns into a hodge-podge of ghost story cliches that the Japanese grew tired of 10 years ago.

Although, to be honest, the Japanese films worked better because there was never any question about whether or not the ghosts were real.  In J-Horror, the ghosts are most definitely real, therefore the threat isn't entirely psychological.  When you're watching, you know what's going on, even if the characters don't.  That's what makes the horror work.

If you're going to pretend that the ghosts might not be real, but then have them save the day by revealing important information that can't be discerned by other means, then the ghosts become a plot device rather than a conflict.  The ghosts become a shortcut way to solve the mystery, rather than anything scary, and any psychological depth becomes two-dimensional, shifting the storytelling focus from character to plot.

Character is always superior to plot.

Madness trumps ghosts any day.

Unless, of course, you stop dicking around and focus on making the ghosts an obvious part of the narrative with as much reality as the living characters.

At least, that's my opinion on the matter.

And this forcing of the supernatural into situations that are scary and disturbing enough without them, just cheapens the drama, the performances, and the overall effect of the stories.  Deathwatch did it first this week, and now The Disappeared follows suit.

Serious horror is difficult to pull off.  You can't afford to cheapen the experiences and emotions of the characters with cliches and easy-outs.  That's why horror, infused with comedy to humanize the characters, is so much more satisfying.  Trying to be serious, but then copping out with absurdities, just makes your work pretentious and laughable.

1 comment:

  1. I'd missed this one, but it's on telly tonight, so I'll have a look later on.