“The Disappeared”: British Horror? Yes!

‘Tis the season when the leaves start changing colors and the air starts blowing cooler. The shorts and sandals of summer get pushed to the back of the closet to make room for sweaters, scarves and boots. And it’s always around this time of the year that I start really craving good horror films. Perhaps because Halloween is right around the corner? Or maybe there’s just something about staying in with a hot bowl of buttered popcorn and watching movies in the warmth of the house when it starts to get chilly outside.

Whatever the case, I felt the urge to delve into some horror movie watching a few days ago. And Netflix recommended a film called The Disappeared. The user reviews were pretty good and it seemed along the lines of what I like so I fired it up on Netflix Instant Watch on Xbox Live.

What’s surprised about The Disappeared is that it’s a British film. Let’s face it, the Brits are not known for churning out horror flicks. However, The Disappeared is a departure from what we Americans are used to with British cinema and gives us a few chills, spills and jump out of your seat moments.

The wonderful thing about this film is that it IS a British film. The story is what I like to refer to as a “slow burn.” The story is set up meticulously in the beginning about a boy, Matthew, who has just been released from an asylum after the disappearance of his brother. And we learn that Matthew has a tenuous relationship with his father, who blames him for his brother having gone missing. We also meet a next door neighbor, Amy, as well as Matthew’s best friend in the guise of Tom Felton (of Harry Potter fame).

Eventually, Matthew starts hearing his little brother’s voice and seeing his face everywhere. Having a previous history of mental illness, he, along with everyone around him, assumes that he’s going crazy again. However, we begin to learn that his brother may be calling out from the beyond to tell Matthew something important, but what’s the message?

By the time we get to the good scary bit of the film, we’re so used to the slow storytelling style that once the first grab you moment arrives, we jump 10 feet in the air out of our seats. And then the film picks up steam and we realize that nothing is as it appears to be.

Although I’m used to American horror films, where the action starts almost from the beginning of the film, I appreciated the slow pace of story telling here. It builds up to that first jump at you moment and has you gasping for air afterwards. I found it very effective. Director Johnny Kevorkian, who is also credited as a writer,  knew how to milk each moment to make it count.

Harry Treadaway turns in a highly convincing performance as Matthew. He does a wonderful job of making us, the audience, feel as if we are in Matthew’s shoes and the story slowly becomes ours, as well as his. We see this terrifying world from his eyes and Treadaway’s acting brings us along for the horrific journey.

There is also the traditional upside down crosses that we see in a lot of horror films, but I felt that this was almost not needed in this film. It’s sort of explained by a very brief moment of special effects, which can be easily missed, but if you catch it, it does make sense. I’m not sure everyone will, though. This would be my only complaint, though, and it’s a small one.

For a horror film, the special effects are minimal, but are honestly not really needed. It just goes to show that a big budget is not necessary to make a good scary movie.

The end is satisfying and fortunately, does not leave us hanging and waiting for a sequel. As this is a small independent film, I am sure the creators were just grateful to get one shot at telling the story.

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