Thomas Jane and Anne Heche both lower themselves to the standards of this bafflingly bad thriller that even boasts its own audience-insulting Shyamalan-style ending.
The Vanished is one of those terribly self-serious thrillers that make for great unintentional comedies. Nobody in it, from the desperate parents at its core to the useless law enforcement officers investigating the disappearance of their daughter to the many deliberately suspicious suspects, behaves in a way that makes any sense. Most look like they’ve ambled in from a different film entirely, one that had, presumably, a bit more emotional and logical coherence than this, the sophomore feature directorial outing from actor Peter Facinelli.
The parents are Wendy (Anne Heche, playing frantic) and Paul (Thomas Jane, remember when he was The Punisher?), whose fishing and camping holiday goes a bit awry when their ten-year-old daughter, Taylor (twins Kk and Sadie Heim), goes missing. Increasingly desperate and stuck in an RV in the middle of nowhere, Wendy and Paul conduct their own investigation rather than waiting for the inept Sheriff (Jason Patric) to get a move on. There’s an escaped convict on the loose, and everyone’s a suspect, from the RV park’s owner Tom (John D. Hickman) to strung-out groundkeeper Justin (Alex Haydon) to newlywed RV-next-door couple Miranda (Aleksei Archer) and Eric (Kristopher Wente), whose scantily-clad female half occupies so much of Paul’s attention that the whole daughter business seems like a bit of an afterthought in The Vanished.
Wendy and Paul are both blameful of themselves, each other, and everyone else, so their own ad-hoc manhunt becomes a kind of panicky killing spree, as their finger-pointing runs away with them and each improbable decision leads to increasingly bizarre responses and cover-ups. The couple seems oddly unconcerned with their daughter’s disappearance and equally unbothered by anything that happens after it, sometimes to a funny extent but always in a way that makes no sense whatsoever. Occasionally, either or both remember what their motivation is supposed to be and play up the emotional beat to an extent that borders on parody.
The Vanished opens with an Emily Dickinson poem, which it mistakes for an examination of grief that the rest of the film actively rebels against. Most of the runtime is devoted to an overblown mystery plot stuffed with obvious red herrings that attracts so much attention in its histrionics that tokenistic allusions to genuine grief feel silly in the proximity of it. You’ll never buy into these two as a grieving couple, or as parents, especially since they’re both 51 and their ostensible daughter is a pre-teen. By the time the third-act twist arrives you’ll scarcely be paying attention, which is perhaps just as well – it’s a turn so nonsensical that my eyes rolled hard enough to plop out into my lap.