The Vanished Ending Explained & Plot Analysis

Psychological meaning of the thriller The Vanished (formerly titled Hour of Lead): denial, anger, bargaining … The Vanished (2020): movie plot, ending description, explanation, meaning, similar thrillers.

Country: USA

Genre: drama, thriller, detective

Year of production: 2020

Director: Peter Facinelli

Actors: Thomas Jane, Anne Heche, Alex Haydon, Jason Patric, Alexei Archer

Tagline: “How far can you go to find your daughter?”

Awards: Mammoth 2020 Film Festival Award for Best Film Music

The plot of the movie The Vanished is reminiscent of detectives, in which the investigation is led by ambiguous or even outright negative characters. In Peter Facinelli’s picture something similar happens, which is followed by a somewhat hackneyed, but still interesting ending.

The plot of the movie The Vanished

The epigraph to the movie The Vanished is a poem by American poet Emily Dickinson “After great pain, a formal feeling”.

At the beginning of the movie we see the silhouette of a man running in the night. He is being chased by police officers with dogs.

In November 2018, a family – a man named Paul, his wife Wendy, their ten-year-old daughter Taylor, and their dog Lucky – go camping in their trailer. Everyone looks happy. At the entrance to the campground, they are greeted by the owner, Tom Henry. As he gives them permission to enter, he acts less than welcoming. He warns them not to let their dog off the leash or they’ll be in trouble. The family parks the trailer by the lake. Paul asks Wendy to go to the store to pay for the campsite. He prepares to go fishing with his daughter.

Thomas Jane of Hour of Lead
A still from the movie The Vanished

Paul notices a half-naked girl relaxing in an inflatable Jacuzzi nearby. She introduces herself: her name is Miranda Hudson, who had come here with her husband the night before.

Wendy returns and notices Lucky the dog running alone. Paul calls his daughter to go fishing, but she doesn’t respond. Wendy checks the trailer however doesn’t discover Taylor inside. The couple starts calling for their daughter together, but in vain. The police, led by Sheriff Baker, arrive on the scene and organize a large-scale search for the girl. The situation is aggravated by the fact that a prisoner who escaped from the local jail is hiding nearby.

The sheriff asks the couple to stay in the trailer, but Wendy can’t just sit and wait. She convinces Paul to begin his search. The couple goes into the woods and sees a campfire with a man sleeping next to it. The couple assume it is an escaped convict. Wendy gets the idea to take the man’s gun away from him. The man wakes up. Then Wendy, frightened, reflexively shoots him in the head.

The next day the woman, tormented by guilt, wants to tell the police what happened, but her husband dissuades her. Sheriff Baker comes to the couple’s trailer. Paul offers him coffee and notices Wendy’s bloody hat on the table. He has to supposedly accidentally pour boiling water on Baker to distract and cover up the evidence.

The sheriff tells Wendy and Paul that the police managed to catch the culprit that night. He was apprehended while trying to leave for another town on a bus. After questioning him, the police have no reason to believe that he may be connected to the girl’s disappearance. The sheriff also tells them that someone shot and killed a regular tourist on the south shore of the lake. Guilt begins to plague Wendy even more.

Anne Hach of Hour of Lead (2020)
The role of Wendy was played by Anne Hatch. A still from the movie The Vanished

The couple is approached by a guy named Justin, who works as a janitor at the campground. He offers words of encouragement and then asks how old Taylor was. Wendy snaps at him about what he said about her daughter in the past tense. Justin apologizes and leaves. The campground host Tom watches this scene. Paul and Wendy arrive at the station to file a missing child report as the case takes a more serious turn. They have DNA tests taken, and the sheriff asks to speak at a press conference to recruit volunteers to search for the girl. Paul calls his brother, but the phone is disconnected. He leaves him a voicemail and tells him that Taylor is in trouble and he should call him back.

The couple return to the campground. Miranda and her husband Eric come over to see them. They bring dinner as a show of support. Wendy takes the plates, goes up to the trailer and throws the food away. She blames Paul for her daughter’s disappearance because he was busy admiring Miranda at the time of her disappearance. Wendy wants to leave her husband, since nothing else connects them except their daughter. Paul reassures his wife.

In the evening, Sheriff Baker drinks and shoots bottles in the street. He goes into his home and his spouse asks him about the missing girl. Baker is silent.

Paul hears his daughter’s voice. He comes out of the bedroom. It turns out that Wendy is watching a videotape from the family archives featuring Taylor. Paul offers his spouse a nap, but she refuses, saying that she is plagued by insomnia. Wendy tells her husband that their dog has barked at Eric, even though he’s never done it before. The couple begins to suspect the neighbors of kidnapping their daughter. Paul and Wendy sneak into the Hudson couple’s trailer. They discover a camera on the table, and the photos show a naked Miranda. Wendy finds the medicine cabinet and discovers that the neighbors are trying to have a baby, so they have a motive for the kidnapping. Eric and Miranda catch the couple as they manage to get out of their trailer. Wendy asks to take them along on their next search. The neighbors agree to meet at the marina early in the morning.

Thomas Jane of Hour of Lead
The movie stars Thomas Jane as Paul. A still from the movie The Vanished

Wendy and Paul arrive at the dock. Together with Eric and Miranda, they take a boat out on the lake to look for Taylor or any clues to her disappearance. After several hours of searching without success, Eric notices that the fuel is running low, which means it makes sense to return to shore. However, Wendy sees something in the water across the lake. The couple swim over there, but find only an ordinary package. Paul shuts down the boat’s engine. Wendy accuses the Hudson couple of missing their daughter and pulls a gun out of her backpack. She points it at Miranda, but Eric punches Wendy in the face. The boat flips over and everyone ends up in the water.

Eric starts choking Paul, but he manages to get a knife and stab the guy in the stomach several times. Eric dies from his wounds. Paul pulls Wendy out of the water and brings her to her senses. They notice that Miranda is nowhere to be found. Sheriff Baker knocks on Eric and Miranda’s trailer, but no one opens it for him. He notices that the door is unlocked and goes inside. Behind the closet, he discovers red beads. The rescue team brings in a dead body. The sheriff opens the bag and sees Eric’s body.

Baker shows the found beads to Paul and Wendy. They say they are their daughter’s favorite beads. The sheriff adds that he himself once lost a child, his son. The one had a drug addiction.

Justin tells Tom that he is very scared because of the large number of people killed around him. He blames him for the crimes that have happened. Tom denies involvement and punches Justin in the face, then gives him a bag of drugs and drives him away.

Wendy arrives at Tom’s store and picks up a couple of videotapes and a candy bar. In the store, she notices a door and wants to go in there, but Tom stops her. Meanwhile, Justin has been watching her near the entrance. In the trailer, Wendy and Paul are fighting. Wendy gets drunk and hears a knock on the door. Justin stands on the doorstep, hands her a candy bar and leaves. Wendy goes to his house and through the window sees the guy using drugs.

Paul lights a cigar and walks out of the trailer. He lays down on the dock and hears sounds from the water. As he lowers himself to the water, he sees the dead body of his daughter. Paul calls for help, but it turns out it was a dream. He is awakened by his wife’s scream. He goes outside and sees that someone has killed their dog.

Jason Patrick of Hour of Lead
Jason Patric as Sheriff Baker. A still from the movie The Vanished

On the fourth day of Taylor’s disappearance, the sheriff suggests that the couple move into a hotel. They refuse and tell about Justin’s behavior yesterday. Baker calls the guy in for questioning, but he keeps quiet.

Wendy drinks a pack of sleeping pills to commit suicide, but doctors manage to save her. The couple return to the campground. Wendy goes to Tom’s store again, under the pretext of returning the tapes. No one is inside. Wendy opens the door to the back room and sees a closet. Behind the closet is revealed a secret hallway with doors, behind one of which is a soundproofed room. In it: a bed, a television, and cassettes signed with women’s names. On one of these tapes, Wendy discovers a tape in which Tom forces an underage child into intimacy Tom finds Wendy and beats her over the head, then proceeds to destroy the evidence. Suddenly, the woman regains consciousness and attacks Tom. A fight ensues, in the finale of which Wendy kills the pedophile.

On the fifth day after the girl’s disappearance, Sheriff Baker tells the press about Tom Henry’s murder and his collection. He suggests that Tom may be involved in Taylor’s disappearance as well as the murder of Eric Hudson.

Paul throws away the box of Taylor’s toys and belongings and tells his wife that he wants to put an end to this game. He closes the trash can and leaves. On the sixth day after going missing, Baker is going to work. His spouse Marian has left him a note saying she left him. Also on the desk are pictures of Paul and Wendy. He notices that pregnant Wendy is posing against the backdrop of the famous twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. This means that the photo was taken seventeen years ago. Hence, Taylor can’t be just ten years old, which directly contradicts her parents’ description.

The police finally contact Paul’s brother and he gives an explanation: Taylor drowned six years ago, but Paul and Wendy still can’t get over the loss. So they occasionally fall into the illusion that their daughter is still alive. Baker rushes back to the camp and discovers that the couple has already left.

Paul and Wendy, as they did at the beginning of the movie, are driving in their trailer. And they communicate with the daughter again. Now we see it: the girl is in the van – but it’s all just an old videotape the couple is watching. In reality, there are only two of them in the car.

The Vanished Explanation of the ending

So, the point of the ending of the movie The Vanished is that all the suspicions of the main characters were the result of their inability to accept the death of their daughter, which happened several years ago. In reality, the main source of danger was Paul and Wendy themselves.

Concluding the plot, the authors reveal some moments of the picture under the repetition of the psychologist’s monologue. He gives an interpretation of the behavior of Paul and Wendy. The point is that according to the popular model described by American psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, people go through five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. The couple cannot complete this vicious circle and keep coming back to one of these stages, not reaching the real, full acceptance of their daughter’s death.

In support of this explanation of the ending, the director glimpses footage of Paul and Wendy’s misadventures, as if suggesting that their actions be analyzed through the prism of the psychologist’s words. We are also shown details that complement the plot. For example, we see Paul putting Taylor’s beads in the Hudson couple’s trailer so that Wendy will later recognize them and begin to suspect the innocent couple.

In another shot, Wendy stares crazily at the knife, after which the dog’s pitiful look is shown – a hint that she was the one who killed the animal. We also see that Miranda drowned immediately after the incident on the boat, so there’s nothing mysterious about her disappearance. In one more shot, Justin is holding a towel that has Taylor’s birth date on it – January 6, 2002. Which means she drowned just as she was ten years old.

In the finale of The Vanished, Paul turns on a video from the family archive. It becomes clear that all the footage of Taylor shown at the beginning is from this tape.

Paul scrolls the video back to the beginning, as if restarting a vicious cycle. The couple joins their daughter singing on the recording. The point is that the grief has again not been fully accepted, which means the stages of his experience will be repeated.

daughter search of Hour of Lead
A frame from the movie The Vanished

The point of the movie The Vanished

Detectives and thrillers in which it turns out that the heroes suffered from mental illness, and the people shown in the frame were not actually there – not uncommon. Except that in the movie The Vanished viewers were not actually deceived. We were not shown nonexistent characters. Just the authors did not immediately explain that the video inserts with the girl – this is, in fact, flashbacks from the happy family past of the heroes, and not from the present. Such a trick of the director can be attributed to the main advantages of the picture.

True, someone might think that Justin and Tom were not in reality either. Too much of a coincidence seems to be the neighborhood of a male pedophile with the heroes. Besides, Sheriff Baker claimed that children in the neighborhood have not gone missing for a very long time. On the other hand, intimacy with minors could have occurred without their abduction. Justin and Tom are hardly a figment of Paul and Wendy’s imagination. Still, that would spoil the beautiful directorial move of depicting only real events.

And these characters, along with all the others, including the sheriff, are meant to take on the audience’s suspicions, thus taking them away from the main characters. That is why Miranda is portrayed as a seductive (with a hint of guile) beauty, Baker fears the arrival of the FBI, as if he has something to hide, and Justin and Tom have plenty of “skeletons in the closet”.

Talking about the essence of the movie, it is worth remembering its epigraph – a poem by Emily Dickinson. The phrase The Vanished is taken from it. This work clearly contains a hidden meaning known only to the author. But in general it can be characterized as an artistic description of the feeling of pain from an event that happened once long ago. The key line in the context of the movie The Vanished can be considered as a line, a free translation of which sounds as follows: “The austere heart does not know whether it suffered yesterday yesterday or centuries ago”. In other words, mental wounds do not heal – they can make you feel pain again and again. This is what happens to the main characters who mourn their dead daughter.

parents' grief over the loss of their daughter of Hour of Lead
Frame from the movie The Vanished (2020)

Похожие фильмы

  • Prisoners (United States, 2013): the missing girl’s father decides to take the investigation into her disappearance into his own hands;
  • Fractured (USA, 2019): the hero discovers that his wife and daughter have disappeared without a trace;
  • Flightplan (USA, 2005): the heroine loses her daughter right on board an ordinary airplane, and the facts indicate that the girl was not there at all;
  • Changeling (USA, 2008): the girl gets her missing son, but she thinks he’s been switched;
  • Gone Baby Gone (USA, 2007):private detectives take on the investigation into the disappearance of a four-year-old girl.
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