Thursday, April 11, 2024

Disappear Completely, Coming to Netflix

Like most people working in [tabloid] journalism, Santiago takes a flexible approach to ethics. He often bends the rules and bribes cops, but at least his news is not fake. The dead bodies he photographs really are dead, except for the most recent one. Nobody understands how the senator could still be alive in his condition, but Santiago will learn from hard experience in Luis Javier Henaine’s Disappear Completely, which starts streaming tomorrow on Netflix.

Even though Santiago takes lurid crime-scene photos, he sees himself as an artistic chronicler of urban decay, sort of in the tradition of Arthur “Weegee” Felig. He aspires to hold a proper gallery show, but his livelihood depends on his crass editor, who does not appreciate his talent. As a result, Santiago’s relationship with his girlfriend Macrela has suffered, even before his rather unenthused response to the news of her pregnancy.

He really should have stayed with her, rather than rushing to his next front-page crime scene. The responding cops assumed the prominent senator was already dead, since the rats had been eating him. Then he suddenly groans. At that moment, the startled Santiago snaps a partial, shadowy shot of something
else in the room.

In the next few days, Santiago experiences seizures and strange dreams or visions. Slowly, he starts to lose his sense of taste and smell. His medical tests come back negative, but the discovery of some kind of cursed fetish leads him to seek more occultic help. According to the spiritualist, Santiago has been cursed to lose all five of his senses, at which point he will essentially succumb to nothingness, or, you know.

It turns out Mexican politics are really scary—and so is this film. It is an eerie, unsettling kind of fear rather than rip-and-slash terror. Frankly,
Disappear Completely is one of the more accessible horror movies for non-fans. It is smart and moody, but the tension builds steadily, from decidedly occult circumstances.

Santiago has his share of karma coming his way, but his fate is still horrifying, thanks to Harold Torres’s gritty and grounded lead performance. He really looks like a weary, compromised shutterbug barely scraping by. You know there are a lot of dodgy news photographers and freelance stringers very much like him out there.

Henaine conclusively proves atmosphere and the power of suggestion are much more important than jump scares or constant caarnage in creating a memorable horror film. It also helps that cinematographer Glauco Bermudez can make anything he frames look creepy. Whether it is an accurate representation of witchcraft or not, Henaine and co-screenwriter Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes truthfully depict the corruption of modern journalism and politics. All three together make for quite a wicked combination. Highly recommended for horror fans,
Disappear Completely starts streaming tomorrow (4/12) on Netflix.