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  • Rev Horror

Disappear Completely

Dir. Luis Javier Henaine (2024)

A crime scene photographer begins to lose his senses one by one after photographing the death of a local politician.

I am blind as a fucking bat. I've worn glasses since the third grade, a fact that made me the bear the brunt of a ton of ridicule and teasing from my classmates and definitely did a number on my ability to ever be able to become an Air Force pilot. Neither consequence particularly bothered me, but the one thing that has always surprised me is the inherent fear of eventually losing my sight altogether, a phobia that rears its ugly head whenever I happen to knock my glasses off of my bedside table in the middle of the night and I'm forced to scramble around in a panic trying to find them through the myopic haze. Needless to say, Disappear Completely and its themes of losing your senses resonated deeply with me, though the protagonist is certainly facing a bit more danger than I do when I'm clumsy in the middle of the night.

Santiago (Harold Torres) is a crime scene photographer, and he's good at what he does, seeking to take artistically framed pictures of some of the worst sights imaginable. His girlfriend discovers that she's pregnant, determined to keep the baby despite Santiago's selfish desire to focus solely on his work. He works for a newspaper who exploits these photos, publishing the lurid details on the front page in an effort to gain viewers, a fact that Santiago despises in his pursuit of artistic integrity. After photographing the scene of a deceased politician, Santiago begins losing his senses one by one, and he is forced to find the cause of his curse before it is too late and his last sense disappears.

Delving deeply into Mexican cultural mythology and the intrinsic pathos of losing parts of ones whole, Disappear Completely is a slow-burn exploration of metaphysical body horror complete with a folk-focused tale of witchcraft and the consequences of selfishness. It's flawed protagonist is unlikeable, though clearly talented, and fails to garner sympathy even when he begins to see the errors of his ways. It's a folklore-ish story, to be sure, but it also resonates with a modern audience because of its relatability: we all have flaws, including ones that hurt those around us, but we would really like the ability to self-correct before we lose the ability to do so. Santiago is an unfortunately relatable character, even though he may appear to have no redeeming qualities on the surface: despite his ego, he does love his girlfriend and he's quite good at his job, his struggle to balance the two becoming the central conflict in his life as he fails to recognize his shortcomings before its too late.

I'm not generally big on folk horror, and that's no different with this film. I do, however, appreciate modern horror's focus on other countries' legends and mythos, and there is a shift towards exploring Mexican folklore with films like this one and last year's Huesera: The Bone Woman and Satanic Hispanics. The Mexican culture is filled with unexplored and unplumbed quirks and scares, and it's really nice to see these unique perspectives being brought before a mainstream (read: American) audiences. This film, despite being a slow burn indie supernatural horror, is on Netflix, a sure sign that a horror genre is at least on the cusp of "making it."

Director Luis Javier Henaine is a good one to make that leap. He's immensely talented, this film's ability to let the audience experience Santiago's disappearing sense a perfect example of his own artistic capabilities. That's a difficult thing to put on film, but Henaine does it perfectly and with enough precision to terrify his audience. While the folk horror aspect didn't particularly disturb me, the general concept of the film certainly did. It's a horrifying thought, losing pieces of yourself until you, well, disappear completely. Henaine's ability to capture this is stellar, and it's a film you definitely should check out despite it's slowly developing story.

Who this movie is for: Folk horror fans, Mexican horror devotees, Helen Keller

Bottom line: Disappear Completely is a stellar Mexican horror film that deals with some truly horrific subject matters. It's scary when it needs to be, interesting all the way through, and at the very least is an exploration of a culture that most Americans should be more familiar with than they are. The acting is precise and well performed, the cinematography and sound design work flawlessly for what director Henaine is intending, and it's a well-done film all around. I definitely recommend checking it out on Netflix, where its streaming now.

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