When River Phoenix suddenly died in 1993, one crucial detail was quickly forgotten: at the time of his death, Phoenix was nearly finished production on Dark Blood. According to estimates, the film was 80 percent complete, but producers were forced to cancel the production, leaving the completed footage in a vault. Director George Sluizer (who was responsible for both versions of The Vanishing) tells The Hollywood Reporter that this footage was almost destroyed in 1999, but he had it moved to the Netherlands, where it remained until he began post-production in 2012.
Dark Blood will have its North American premiere at the Miami Film Festival in March, but in a statement released three months ago, the Phoenix family withheld their blessing. Despite George Sluizers claim that he has been communicating with River Phoenixs family in regard to releasing Rivers last film, Joaquin Phoenix and his family have not been in communication with the director nor will they participate in any way.
While the release of Dark Blood is undoubtedly an exciting development for fans of River Phoenix, its important to remember that this is not a fully realized work. The reason the film wasnt completed in the first place is that many of its most crucial scenes had yet to be shot at the time of Phoenixs death. In place of this missing footage, Sluizer (now 80) has recorded narration detailing the history of the project, making this an unusual hybrid of fiction and documentary. This isnt the film they set out to make, but its the most complete version of that film possible under the circumstances.