Film Review

Disappear Completely

todayMay 10, 2024 24

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By – Gareth Jones

For fans of Mexican cinema, folk horror, allegorical horror

How do you curse someone who has no sense of morality or ethics?  Well, in the case of Disappear Completely the curse is one where the protagonist loses a sense each day.  This well-structured film puts a new twist on the subgenre of horror.   One of my favorites before this was Stephen King’s Thinner and like that book and film, this one does an excellent job of making the audience relate to someone who is unlikeable. Remarkably, this is the first horror film directed by Luis Javier Henaine, and just his third overall feature.

The film tells the story of Santiago, an aspiring artistic photographer who is paying the bills by providing graphic pictures to the tabloids of Mexico City.  He pays off the local police to get access to accidents and murders. He has a crass, jaded approach to his job, oblivious to the pain and suffering connected to the people he is photographing.  This all changes one night, when he is called by his police informant that there is a wealthy politician who has been found dead in his home partially consumed by rats. Of course, he leaves his pregnant nurse girlfriend high and dry to go get the photos.  It is here that he meets his fate.  Each day after that he slowly loses his senses, one at a time. He enlists the help of locals knowledgeable about these curses and we are pulled into this underworld of folklore and terror.

Disappear Completely does a phenomenal job of putting us in the shoes of Santiago.  With each lost sense, we are often given clues before he is as to what is happening, and when he loses his hearing, the sound design is extremely effective at replicating how he hears or does not hear the world.  It is reminiscent of the great Sound of Metal which came out a few years ago and set a new standard in immersing the audience in the world of hearing loss.  The cinematography by Glauco Bermudez beautifully accentuates the world of Santiago with lighting and color creating the mood and atmosphere.

The success of this film lies in the performance of Santiago, and Harold Torres delivers a stunning character.  We are disturbed by Santiago’s ambition to succeed at any cost, but we still are willing to follow this character and he overcomes this unethical behavior with a layered performance.  Torres has had smaller roles in Hollywood productions.  Hopefully, this role will bring him more attention and opportunity.  The rest of the cast is strong, but this film lives and dies with our ability to connect with this character and Torres gives us the window to do so.

The film also expands on the ever evolving subgenre of folk horror.  There have been several Mexican films in the past few years that have explored this versatile approach.  The folktales and mythology of all cultures can be sublimely used to tell stories that are allegorical in nature, and entertaining.  This is a great example of that continual evolution.

One note is that there are some animals hurt on screen in this film.  I struggle with this even when it is an essential part of the story.  Fair warning.  Of course, no animals were actually hurt, but it is still challenging.

I  look forward to seeing what future films Henaine and Torres will make.  One last easter egg.  Stay for the credit sequence for the song.  A pleasant surprise.

Available to stream on Netflix

Written by: jamric

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