VANISHING ON 7TH STREET Movie Review
I have a confession: I don’t generally care for horror films, thrillers, things that go bump in the night. You may ask, then, why I jumped at the opportunity to view an advance screening of Brad Anderson’s newest film, VANISHING ON 7TH STREET. The answer: aside from an interesting casting mix, the underlying premise of the apocalyptic-like film intrigued me in a way most horror films don’t. This is precisely what makes Vanishing on 7th Street a smartly directed horror film, different from the usual blood and gore showings you get in Halloween and Saw, films that are much more scary. The scary moments for this movie aren’t in the creepy instances (which admittedly are only a few, repeated several times) but rather, the undertone of the film, in which the unseen villain is the very simple yet terrifying fear we all have – darkness.
Luke (Hayden Christensen), Rosemary (Thandie Newton), Paul (John Leguizamo) and James (newcomer Jacob Latimore) are four strangers who are also the sole survivors of a sudden blackout that has depleted the entire planet of its population. Stranded in a bar off 7th Street in Detroit with a generator as their only hope, the film follows the interactions of these four strangers as they try their best to figure out how to survive this seemingly impending apocalypse. There is no direct explanation for why everyone has suddenly vanished without a trace (leaving nothing but clothes and shoes), but as long as you have light, you can starve off the inevitable shadows.
Although the movie promotes no real “star” with its small cast, Christensen seems to have the most screen time and it’s nice to see him take a challenging role like this, outside of what his normal work tends to be. It’s hard to play a character with little depth in the same situation for 85 minutes, and he manages to keep the audience intrigued and on the edge.
Vanishing on 7th Street cements itself as “indie” horror stature by employing filming tactics akin to the Blair Witch Project such as shaky camera work and an emphasis on the focus of light in an otherwise darkly lit shot. Simple music and the use of impending darkness in the shape of fingers and silhouettes also add to the overall horror tone in this respect. But the creepiest parts of the film come from mere anticipation – knowing what will happen when the absence of light occurs – as well as the very real and chilling silence of seeing numerous abandoned cars and empty clothes, a silent reminder of what would happen if one day if everyone in the world was indeed simply removed from existence.
Dedicated horror enthusiasts who enjoy gore, blood and surprise scares will most likely come away from The Vanishing on 7th Street thinking that it is a laughable attempt at a horror film, and will feel cheated out of a good story. Critical movie-goers, however, who are more appreciative of the indie genre and the art of smart filming will both enjoy and appreciate what the director and cast bring to the screen. Vanishing on 7th Street arrives delivering its message in the most chilling way possible – and leaves asking you to form your own interpretations on what kind of evil we see in our fear of the dark.
Vanishing on 7th Street will be released to theaters on February 18, 2011, but will be available On-Demand on January 7, 2011.