Thursday, October 07, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Vanishing on 7th Street

Vanishing on 7th Street

There is nothing worse in the horror genre than a film that does not invoke a sense of dread. As much as it pains me to say it, Vanishing on 7th Street is one of lackluster films where the only way you will feel a chill down your spine is if the theatre’s air condition system is cranked to max. Vanishing on 7th Street was disappointing because it was high on my list of must see films. I even passed on Danny Boyle’s much hyped 127 Hours and a few other stellar films in the TIFF selection process for Vanishing. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

The premise of the film is by far the most interesting aspect of the film. A city suffers a power outage and by time the back-up generators start the majority of the population has disappeared. All that is left is their clothes, vehicles, cellphones, etc. After 72 hours without power, and the with the menacing darkness quickly expanding, four survivors (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, and Jacob Latimore) must figure out a way to elude the darkness and get out of the city.

One of the main reasons I was so eager to see Vanishing on 7th Street was due to the fact that is was directed by Brad Anderson. His work on films such as Session 9, and The Machinist, as well as his contribution to shows like Fringe are proof enough that Anderson knows how to tell an eerie tale well. So what happened to with this film? To be honest, all of my issues with this film stem from Anthony Jaswinski’s screenplay.

Vanishing on 7th Street never explains why the darkness occurs or how it can be stopped. Sure there are several nods to a bigger spiritual type of cleansing going on, not the mention the not so subtle reference to Adam and Eve, but nothing is ever stated in concrete terms. Leaving things up to the viewer’s imagination is always better in regards to horror. Unfortunately, the problem is that Vanishing never establishes any real rules for “the darkness” and the film takes liberties with this. One minute “the darkness” is afraid of light, the next it is manipulating it by showing a baby stroller under a street light. A character can survive 72 hours covered in glow sticks yet, later on in the film, “the darkness” can magically drain the power of newly opened glow sticks, batteries, etc. There is never any rhyme or reason to much of the actions of “the darkness”.

This lack of consistency flows into the characters themselves. While I can understand people not thinking straight in the first 48 hours, one would start to wise up just a tad after 72 hours. Characters are constantly making stupid decisions at every corner of the film. For example, Luke (Christensen) and Rosemary (Newton) decide to leave the only well lit building on the entire street to go searching for a working car. Before leaving Rosemary place a bunch of glow sticks around James (Latimore), but none on Paul (Leguizamo)…who is lying wounded on the pool table. It is very telling when the smartest character in the entire film is the one with the least amount of screen time, Briana (Taylor Groothuis).

The repetitive nature of characters making one stupid mistake after the next really hinders any form of character development within the film. It is a shame that Jaswinski never seems to figure out how to evolve his story past the great initial premise. If the story and characters had been stronger Vanishing on 7th Street could have been a decent film. Sadly the film feels like a low-rent sequel to the equally silly movie, Darkness Falls.


  1. Well a movie starring Hayden Christensen in which he is not the biggest issue hurting the quality, that is something you don't see everyday. Too bad as well, I agree that the premise of this movie sounds great. I really like Thandie Newton, but she's been accepting poor scripts in recent years.

  2. @Edgar - Both Hayden and Thandie have hit a rut in regards to finding good film roles, etc. New York, I Love You was the last decent thing Hayden has been in...although the other cast members stood out more than he did. For Thandie, I am tempted to say Crash was her last really good film role.

  3. I still think the premise of the movie was pretty good just like "28 days later", but yes, they failed to make good explanation. But I think the writer had more in his head which he thought he might have given us some clues to the unexplained. Now I think that the darkness got strong or some how learned to manipulate light or maybe it was just simply messing with them. I guess I'm struggling to like this movie.

  4. @Richard – Personally, I thought 28 Days Later was far better than this film. Vanishing had a good premise but simply did not know how to execute it well. The darkness was too many different things at once, which does not help the consistency of the overall story.


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