George Sluizer’s 1988 thriller The Vanishing––about a Dutch man who is obsessed by the disappearance of his girlfriend––builds to a conclusion so indelibly creepy, it qualifies as a horror film. The film attracted a great deal of audience and industry attention, and gave Sluizer some high-profile fans––including, most famously, Stanley Kubrick, who considered The Vanishing to be the scariest film he’d ever seen. Sluizer passed away in Amsterdam this past Saturday; he was 82.
Sluizer was born in Paris in 1932 to a Dutch father and a Norwegian mother. He studied film in France in the early 1950s, and for the next few years would work as an assistant director, most notably for the influential Dutch documentary filmmaker Bert Haanstra. In the 1960s, he produced and directed TV specials for National Geographic. His early fiction films were little-seen, which perhaps explains why he returned to below-the-line work, including a stint as the production manager for Fitzcarraldo. Multilingual since childhood, Sluizer almost never worked in his native language; in fact, The Vanishing was his only fiction film to feature significant dialogue in Dutch.
Sluizer’s post-breakthrough career could charitably be described as spotty. His English-language projects (including a notoriously misguided remake of The Vanishing, starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland) were met with harsh reviews, while the films he made in Portuguese––another language he spoke fluently––were simply ignored. Sluizer also suffered a number of professional setbacks: Dark Blood, the movie that was supposed to jumpstart the director’s American career, was left unfinished following the death of star River Phoenix, and on his final project, The Chosen One, Sluizer was ignominiously replaced by none other than Rob Schneider.
Sluizer suffered from health problems in the last years of his life. A recut version of the incomplete Dark Blood footage played out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival in 2012. A new edition of The Vanishing is due out from Criterion later this month, just in time for Halloween.