River Phoenix's Last Film 'Dark Blood' to Debut at Film Festival in September

River Phoenix - photo portrait session - H - 1988
George Rose/Getty Images

Dutch director George Sluizer initially abandoned the project after Phoenix died suddenly in 1993 at age 23.

COLOGNE, Germany -- Dutch director George Sluizer has finally finished Dark Blood, the movie actor River Phoenix was working on when he died at age 23 of a heart attack on Halloween night 1993 outside the Viper Room in West Hollywood.

Sluizer will present the film for the first time at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht in September. It will compete for the festival's Golden Calf award. The Sept. 27 premiere will be in front of a special guest audience.

The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story last year that Sluizer was finishing the film he abandoned nearly two deacdes ago. The 80-year-old director secured postproduction and editing financing to complete the film from the Netherlands Film Fund as well as some cash via Dutch crowdfinancing site Cinecrowd.

Dutch production house Eyeworks helped Sluizer navigate the legal issues surrounding the film. After Phoenix's death, Sluizer confiscated the Dark Blood footage and took it back to the Netherlands. He kept it hidden, fearing, he said, that it otherwise might have been destroyed.

In the film, Phoenix plays Boy, a young widower living on a nuclear testing site in the desert. While he waits for the end of the world, Boy carves Katchina dolls that supposedly contain magical powers. His life is disrupted when a Hollywood jet-set couple traveling across the desert become stranded after their car breaks down. Boy rescues the couple and then takes them prisoner. Dark Blood also stars Judy Davis, Jonathan Pryce and Karen Black.

Sluizer is best known for his 1988 thriller Spoorloos, remade as The Vanishing (1993), starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland. Phoenix received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in Sidney Lumet's Running on Empty (1988), played the young Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and also starred in such films as Stand by Me (1986) and My Own Private Idaho (1991). He was the brother of two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix.

In addition to the Dark Blood premiere, the 2012 Netherlands Film Festival also will screen a retrospective of Sluizer's work and will publish a book on the director's life.