Vanishing on 7th Street

18 May

Title: Vanishing on 7th Street
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Brad Anderson
Writer: Anthony Jaswinski
Starring: 
Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, Jacob Latimore
MPAA Rating: 
R, language
Runtime: 
91 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 
51%

I don’t really think many people will say they truly liked Vanishing on 7th Street, it’s a decidedly underwhelming movie really, but on the other hand I didn’t really find all that much wrong with it, either. It’s that sort of film, one that really has no effect on you, but at the same time it’s one that was definitely trying to. It offers us this post-apocalyptic vision of Detroit, this bleak world where there’s no one left inhabiting the city. But you know we’ll find out that actually there are a group of strangers that somehow managed to remain alive, because that’s how these movies go.

We have Thandie Newton as a woman who works at a hospital, Hayden Christensen as a news reporter, John Leguizamo as a projectionist for a movie theater and Jacob Latimore as a thirteen year-old looking for his mom. Our quartet of unlikely survivors will obviously meet up, as it just so happens that there’s only one place in town where there’s still working electrical power. Because it seems that whatever evil forces took out the rest of the population did so in the dark in the middle of a blackout, and as they try to be safe in the only place where light continues to exist they also have to figure out what’s going on.

And for a while there, it works. In fact, the first fifteen minutes are sort of genius and the first half hour is very strong, appropriately moody and tense, and what’s better, they’re awfully silent. And silence is something that director Brad Anderson works incredibly well with. He uses the silence to create an atmosphere of terror that really gets its nice amount of chills during that first act of the film. And considering this is the guy who directed the creepy The Machinist, as well as a bunch of brilliant episodes of Fringe, which is one of the best shows on television nowadays, then I guess we could have expected such great moments. But Vanishing on 7th Street just doesn’t sustain those moments one bit, and that’s why it ends up falling way short of its potential.

Because it definitely had potential. If we were judging it by those first thirty or forty minutes then we wouldn’t be to blame if we thought this might be the next 28 Days Later, but after that awesome first act the film just basically stops doing anything. It doesn’t satisfy those moments that made us think this might end up being a pretty awesome insight into a side of humanity told in an interesting way, and it instead ends up being our typical horror-thriller film, but one in which the frights and mystery in it only stood for a very short period of time, not being able to make any forward movement after that very strong beginning.

And I think part of the trouble Vanishing on 7th Street ran into is that it abandoned that silence that it used so well at its beginning, in fact, the characters start talking an awful lot, and by focusing on them talking quite a lot more than on them running during that middle-to-final stretch Mr. Anderson lost the reigns of the movie to never get them back again. The story does them in, and even though I won’t recommend this film I will admit that I would have probably considered failing this one had it been made by someone other than Mr. Anderson. This guy knows how to create a perfect mood for this, and when the tension is there it’s really there, it never gets to be as scary as it would’ve wished, but it keeps you watching intently, and a lesser director wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that. Kudos also have to given to Uta Briesewitzbz, the German cinematographer used to working on TV series such as The Wire or Hung, who does a truly incredible job at creating terrific shots using whatever light sources our survivors can get.

It really is too bad that Vanishing on 7th Street didn’t get to fulfill its potential, because it was definitely there, but in the end what the story does with the characters is pretty buzz-killing, not only because the events are pretty unsatisfying, but also because the way its all done feels somewhat half-assed, it may be technically competent, because it really is a well-made film, but that really only means something once you’re applying it to a good story, and that much is absent here. The actors are all fine here, with Mr. Leguizamo being the best of the bunch and Ms. Newton the worst, probably mad because her role was pretty dull, but in the end they just weren’t given all that much to work with.

I would advice, then, for you to skip Vanishing on 7th Street, or at least then to watch only the first half hour or so. Because that bit, full of quiet, atmospheric, beautiful long shots is quite awesome, and it amps up the eeriness that would start dying down the second our characters open their mouths and start yammering away, not realizing the potential suggested during those first moments in which the silence provided an abstract type of horror. So yeah, it starts great, the middle is pretty dull, and the ending I thought was totally dumb. This is a film that tries to pay homage to all these little genre tricks and masters, and doesn’t find its own way in the process.

Grade: C+

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One Response to “Vanishing on 7th Street”

  1. CMrok93 July 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    There was a slight breath of tension and mystery in the air that kept me interested, but the overall pay-off is just terrible and what happens to these characters we know and stay with the whole time, just didn’t do anything for me. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!

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