A kidnapped young woman is forced on a road trip full of murder and mayhem that takes place entirely in her captor’s getaway van.
“Max, hide the beers.
I mean, who gives a shit, man. The whole fucking van smells like pot and alcohol.”
Seeing the title of this movie, it inevitably made me think of the legendary polish product, used to remove stains. I must admit that as the film progresses, and especially during the rough and gore climax in the end, they sure could use a shitload of this product to remove the resulting stains (blood stains that is). Eventually, the initial meaning of the movie title will be a reference to the fact that the entire film almost solely takes place in a van. “VANish” surely can be considered as a low-budget film that was made in an unreal short period. In 13 days they’ve made the whole thing and in a way you’ll notice that.
Despite the low budget, the film still looks surprisingly fresh and professional. In terms of images anyway. The sultry and hot desert environment where everything happens, shimmers of the screen. Everything is soaked in warm colors. And although it’s a simple story that was filmed in a driven way, there are some shortcomings in it. I’m a fan of low-budget movies. And after watching all these million dollar blockbusters, it’s sometimes a relief to see a minimalist creation. It’s the purity of such movies that intrigue me and not the dizzying special effects or the exuberant paid movie stars who appear in it. Of course it’s obvious this film won’t be nominated for an Oscar nomination, but there’s still a revelation to discover in such a creative product as this. In “VANish” this is without a doubt the actress Maiara Walsh who plays brilliantly the part of Emma: a brave young lady who, even though she finds herself in a dire situation, continues to provoke and belittle the three kidnappers. A funny rendition that guarantees hilarious conversations now and then.
Another highlight is the brief appearance of Tony Todd, who I’ll always remember as the imposing and frightening “Candyman” from the eponymous movie. A central interlude so absurd that it made me think of “Pulp Fiction” and the character of Todd as intimidating as ludicrous. I’m sure Tarantino could appreciate this fragment. Besides that, I think you can compare “VANish” with “From Dusk Till Dawn” (except that the latter with regard to the finishing touch and elaboration surely is from a different level). At first glance you might think that this is yet another Danny Trejo one-man-show. Are you a hardcore Trejo fan, then you’ll be deeply disappointed, because he appears only for a few minutes (which I didn’t regret). He might be a crucial part of Jack’s (Austin Abke) established plan, but the final emphasis is on the interaction between the four protagonists and the hidden agenda of Jack.
The biggest disappointment was the denouement. In line with the slasher films of the 90s, this film ends in a huge bloodbath and the shown violence reaches excessive proportions. But ultimately, these violent scenes aren’t really innovative and they look just as old as those of the good old days. Nevertheless you would expect them to be more realistic and credible with today’s technology. It seemed as if the staff used buckets of fake blood on the set. Also, the three kidnappers Jack, Max and Shane were at one time really irritating. Admittedly, Shane (Adam Guthrie) and Max (Bryan Bock Brader, Director) weren’t really sane (drugs, alcohol and PTSD are most likely the cause of this), but gradually they became more and more schizophrenic and hallucinatory insane. In contrast, Jack is an example of self-control. That’s why a visit to his pissed girlfriend, who broke up with him for unknown reasons, during the abduction is plain normal (for me this was a bit exaggerated).
Perhaps the biggest plus of this film is the simplicity of the story: two perfectly normal looking weirdos (a kind of “Dumb and Dumber“-types) abduct the daughter of a drug baron for ransom, the trip to the meeting is fairly chaotic, one of the kidnappers seems to have a different motivation, the denouement turns out to be quite bloody. And that’s perhaps the downside of the film. A too simplistic story. Perhaps they should have extended that period of 13 days a little, to embellish the story a bit and improve the gore, bloody scenes. The movie isn’t that bad, but maybe they rushed it a bit as if all hell would fall on them.