The Vanished

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Vanished Movie Poster Image
Annoying characters sink violent missing-child thriller.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 115 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie is meant to be about grief and sympathy, but in trying to play a trick on the audience, it ends up being about nothing much. Sympathy is tested due to poor behavior, and grief isn't really addressed until after trick ending.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Only the sheriff -- a supporting character -- appears to be helpful here, despite abuse he takes from distraught central couple. He promises to help, tries hard to keep his promise, even showing up to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Violence

Guns and shooting. Video of man with kidnapped little girls (implication of child pornography). A man hits a woman; fighting, tossing around room. Character accidentally shot in head; bloody, gory wound shown. Dead bodies. Dead dog. Other blood and gore shown. Stabbing with knife and screwdriver. Hitting with boat oar; character falls overboard. Hitting with hammer. Character cuts something off-screen, wipes bloody knife on shirt. Punching cabinet. Slapping. Arguing. Jump scares.

Sex

Nude photos viewed on digital camera; small, brief. Two people have sex, as seen through a window; woman shown on top, moaning and grinding (no explicit nudity). Married man admires sexy woman in bikini. Man tries to initiate sex with wife. Flirting. Sex-related talk. Tight, revealing clothing. Suggestion of a prior extramarital affair. Woman in shower; no nudity.

Language

Sporadic language includes several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "damn," "hell." Also "thank God," "Christ," and "Jesus Christ."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character smokes meth; he seems to be trying to quit but failing. A character takes many sleeping pills. Dialogue about a teen who was lost to drugs. Character drinks and then shoots at liquor bottles in the woods. Wine with dinner. Cigar smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Vanished is a thriller about a couple whose 10-year-old daughter goes missing, but there may be something more in play. Expect to see guns and shooting, stabbing, hitting with blunt objects, dead bodies, blood and gore, a dead dog, implied child pornography, and a man roughing up a woman. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as other words. Nude photos of a woman are briefly visible on the small screen of a digital camera. Two characters have sex (viewed through a window): The woman is on top, grinding and moaning, but there's no explicit nudity. A woman wears revealing clothing, and there's dialogue about an extramarital affair. One character smokes meth (and seems to have a problem quitting). Another takes many sleeping pills, and there's casual drinking and cigar smoking. Built around a trick ending, the movie doesn't really build suspense or intrigue, instead relying on erratic, annoying character behavior.

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What's the story?

In THE VANISHED, happy couple Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche) and their 10-year-old daughter, Taylor (KK and Sadie Heim), are taking a vacation in their RV, hoping to spend a quiet Thanksgiving together at a lakeside campground. But as they're setting up, Taylor suddenly disappears from the trailer, and a frantic Paul and Wendy can't find her anywhere. Sheriff Baker (Jason Patric) promises he'll do everything in his power to help, but Paul and Wendy secretly start their own investigation. They suspect several of their neighbors and campground workers, but their efforts to find clues lead to more trouble. Where has Taylor really gone?

Is it any good?

This thriller is built entirely around a twist ending, but the scenes leading up to it aren't intriguing or suspenseful; rather, they're aggravating and nonsensical, and the ending feels unearned. The movie's original title was Hour of Lead, taken from Emily Dickinson's poem "After great pain, a formal feeling comes." It was a less generic title than The Vanished, but not quite fitting due to the fact that the behavior of the distraught parents is more along the lines of "idiotic" and "irresponsible." It's understandable that a parent would want to do everything they could to help their kids, but Paul and Wendy's choices are just flat-out dumb, and they usually result in either embarrassment or violence.

Writer-director Peter Facinelli, who also appears in the movie as the sheriff's deputy, includes many red herrings, which in retrospect become nothing more than wild coincidences. There are also some typical jump scares (that darn cat!) and a long, distracting nightmare sequence. The ending is meant to abruptly return sympathy to poor Paul and Wendy, but by the time it happens, our forgiveness is too far gone. If only The Vanished had found a way to build sympathy -- and suspense -- all along, its whopper of a finale might have made for a very entertaining movie indeed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Vanished's violence. How strong is it? Is it meant to be thrilling? How do things change when it's directed at women, or when children are in peril?

  • How is sex depicted? What are the consequences when characters interact with others outside their primary relationships?

  • How are drinking, smoking, and drugs depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences for their use? Why does that matter?

  • What does the movie's original title, Hour of Lead, mean? How does the Emily Dickinson poem relate to the characters?

  • What does the movie have to say about grief? Does everyone experience grief in the same way? Is it OK if they don't?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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