Tepid Witchy Serial Killer Thriller Disappear Completely (FANTASTIC) Fails to Make Impact
Title: Disappear Completely
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Luis Javier Henaine
Writer: Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Starring: Harold Torres, Tete Espinosa, Norma Reyna
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Santiago (Harold Torres) makes a living as a crime scene photographer. While supportive, his long-term girlfriend Marcela (Tete Espinosa) is frustrated at how his job pulls him away from their relationship and occupies his mind at all hours. This escalates when Santiago is tasked with photographing the death of the Senator (Juan Sahagun). What starts as a usual job turns to terror when the Senator is found to be alive and Santiago spots a figure in the darkness. Minutes later he is mugged on his way home. This string of events turns more sinister when Santiago starts losing each of his senses in the days following the attack. He learns that he has been cursed by a powerful witch and that he only has a week to reverse it before he loses himself to darkness.
An interesting premise and visionary filmmaking gets bogged down by a sluggish story in Disappear Completely.
The biggest disappointment behind this film is the unrealized potential in its premise. For a film about losing one’s senses completely, it speeds through the challenges that come with that. Santiago loses entire senses at once, while others deteriorate slowly throughout a day. This makes for neat directorial moments in the last act of the film but makes the first portion dull and difficult to see through the stakes.
The actual motivation behind the curse is baffling to say the least. If one can call it an explanation, it makes little sense when applied to the story. Despite Santiago’s photography, he easily could have overlooked the moment in the Senator’s mansion when he thought he saw a silhouette. Perhaps there is added backstory on Santiago crossing this person in another way, but this is overall a weak reason to curse someone, especially considering the systems behind the curse.
Santiago wanders through life seeing the darkest of the dark and is cursed. So, it’s clearly in character for him to be numb to the idea of evil. It’s his reaction to those closest to him that feels disingenuous. The first moment he is ordered to sacrifice something, he makes a decision without a second thought. While emotions may come forth when he is forced to truly act, there isn’t much there behind him. It makes his final actions even less believable given his selfish nature throughout the film. This could also be in part to Harold Torres’ more listless take on Santiago, but it doesn’t work all the same.
Losing autonomy and growing numb to evil, Santiago’s descent into the criminal underground of Mexican politics holds multiple meanings. Everything relates back to Santiago’s job as a crime scene photographer and its place in the world. When Santiago photographs the dead for profit, he is engaging in a practice that robs these people of their agency and identity while profiting off their misery. When Santiago is cursed, he is met with the realization that this is likened to the pain he caused others in their afterlife. While the morality of it is secondary to the practical sense of getting rid of him, Santiago’s curse gives him a taste of the inability of feeling, as if he was practically dead.
Disappear Completely shines visually. It is a disorienting watch of a film in the best way. Rotating cameras, well placed shutter images of crime scenes, and a torturously slow shrinking of aspect ratio towards the end really makes the film stand out when watching. It’s a shame that there is so much to praise in the direction and creative aspects of the film when it is paired with such a tepid script. A bleak slow-burn into nothing makes the title of Disappear Completely seem more ironic than it should be.
Serial killer thrillers with a witchy twist should be successful on premise alone but Disappear Completely fails to capture attention. Muddled storytelling and creeping pacing waste the potential of its somatosensory horror concept. Unconvincing performances drag it down further, as the intensity of the curse is barely considered by the core cast. Strong direction and commitment to the sensory loss helps propel the feature when viewers get lost in the story but it only does so much. If witches and curses interest you, it might be worth it to not let this one Disappear Completely.
Overall Score? 5/10