Director – Brad Anderson
Cast – Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, Thandie Newton, Jacob Latimore, Taylor Groothuis
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Vanishing on 7th Street is a film that interested me me I first read about it due to it coming from Brad Anderson, the man behind Session 9, The Machinist, Masters of Horror: “Right To Die”, and someone who I consider to be a solid hitter in the horror genre. I had heard only OK things about this flick from my fellow horror buds, but I found the plot to be an interesting one and went into this film expecting to enjoy it more than my buds did…but I didn’t. The premise is great and Anderson’s direction is solid, but in the end Vanishing on 7th Street left much story potential at the door and left me wondering how Anderson let this one get away.
When a massive power outage blankets the city of Detroit, mysterious vanishings occur in which only a person’s clothes and physical belongings are left behind. Where they went: nobody knows. As the days begin to exhibit less sunlight in favor of more darkness, a group of survivors from different walks of life are forced to band together and use what little light they have to hide from the horrors the reside in the dark.
At first glance I really dug the idea of the film and the mystery element I assumed it would have. Things take off pretty quickly and it does not take more than a few minutes before the blackout hits and our first character, a local projectionist(John Leguizamo; Land of the Dead), finds himself in a world that only seconds ago was full of life and people. The story then heads in this direction with two other characters, a social worker and a businessman(Hayden Christensen), and follows them until they all wind up in a local bar being watched by a young boy who’s mother never returned from trying to gather more lighting equipment. I really dug the idea of people just simply disappearing with no immediately explanation, reminding me somewhat of the Left Behind series of books and movies, which regardless of religious affiliation are sure to put fear in the hearts of those who imagine themselves in such a situation. The majority of the film focuses on our protagonists as they desperately try to survive the new world they live in, a world that with each passing day is filled with more and more dangers due to decreasing hours of daylight and the deadly entities that reside in the dark. I loved the idea of the dark and the mysterious things hidden within it, which reminded me somewhat of The Mist and how the mist was used in the film. I thoroughly enjoyed the sequences involving our survivors holed up in the well-lit bar as they seek shelter and plan their next steps knowing that sooner or later the bar is going to lose power. To me this qualifies as a nowhere-to-run scenario, which I love, and it was only furthered when the power eventually does run out, and they are forced to run against all odds through the darkness that seems to now eternally haunt them. Writer Andrew Jaswinski did a fine job with the film’s overall storyline, and I even marveled at some of his writing tactics in which he used flashbacks to provide developments to what was going on in the film. Sadly, Jaswinski’s writing is where the film’s faults lie as well. Too many questions are left unanswered, as to why the blackout occurred, why people disappeared, and what exactly is residing within the dark. Now, normally I do not mind when a film leaves questions unanswered because it allows for debate between the viewers as they try and come up with their own answers to the film, in the case of Vanishing on 7th Street I do not feel the same way. The premise was nice and the setup was enjoyable, but in the end I felt unsatisfied, as if I sat in front of the screen for 90 minutes in wait of something that would never come: closure. I enjoyed the film’s climax, but everything around it was such a mess that it almost did not matter how the film concluded because what was done was done; Jaswinski failed to close the deal.
So if the story fails to ultimately deliver the goods why does the film get a moderate 6-rating? Because Brad Anderson kicks ass. From the get-go I was engulfed in what I was watching before me thanks to Anderson’s perfectly executed atmosphere, which was dark and gloomy even during the film’s daytime scenes, daytime scenes that showed just how serious things were when you see how many piles of clothing were left on the ground when the millions of Detroit citizens disappeared. As the film progresses the atmosphere becomes better and better as the days get darker and darker, and Anderson did a fantastic job with the film’s visuals, lighting, and camerawork. All of those elements combined made for some genuinely creepy scenes when our protagonists find ourselves a little too close to the dark, which included some audio noises that were truly haunting. His execution of the characters was good, and we get acceptable performances from Leguizamo and Christensen, actors who have never been known for being anything spectacular. I was glad to see that Anderson still has what it takes to deliver good horror, except I have that with his next film he has a good screenplay to help him, because regardless of how great he was in this one the story held Vanishing on 7th Street from greatness.
Overall, Vanishing on 7th Street is a touch film to judge because it had so many positive elements but failed to deliver the “punch” the story needed. The overall storyline is great, and the premise is an interesting and unique one, but too many questions are left unanswered in the worst of ways. Thankfully, Anderson’s direction makes the film watchable and will most likely deliver some good chills to those that give this one a chance, but in the end the film I only recommend this film is you wish to see great direction and make your own case on how good/bad this flick is.