Vanishing on 7th Street (2010 movie) review…

Vanishing on 7th Street (2010 movie) review after the break…

Vanishing on 7th Street (2010 movie) review…

To paraphrase a famous vaudeville performer – “Never open with your closing act.”

“Vanishing on 7th Street” is a 2010 movie that had a “blink-and-you’d-miss-it” theatrical release. The concept is simple – All of a sudden, during a brief but mysterious power outage, practically everyone just vanishes… Clothes, dentures, anything not anatomical are left behind but the people themselves vanish without a trace. Besides the fact that people have simply disappeared, the survivors begin hearing voices and seeing shadows move by themselves. The survivors begin to learn fairly quick that staying in the light is essential if they want to see your first social security check.

Three days (or, more accurately, three very dark days) later, four hapless survivors converge on a bar to assess their increasingly bleak situation and begin to realize that their salvation is far from guaranteed and that the solution to their problem is equally far from solvable. Batteries that worked just moments ago suddenly quit; Candlelight flames flicker and die for seemingly no reason. With the bar’s back-up generator increasingly failing, the group must act if they are to survive a desolate reality where death awaits wherever a shadow falls.

If the movie could be boiled down to an equation, it would probably be “Pitch Black” + “Night of the Comet,” an ever-so-slight dash of “Pulp Fiction” with a side order of “The Langoliers” thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, the concoction is better in it’s set-up then it is in it’s delivery.

Credit, though, where credit is due – The initial set-up of the movie is highly effective. Brad Anderson, nine years removed from directing the horror movie “Session 9,” demonstrates that he hasn’t lost all of his horror-movie directing sensibilities. The initial scenes of catastrophe are effective and the few money shots in this film are entirely effective in selling the notion that, whatever happened, has happened on a large scale. The special effect of human shadows without human objects is especially chilling the first few times and had me wondering if they were physical effects or CGI.

Yet the accolades begin to dry up fairly fast for this production because it makes a fateful mistake – It inserts a rather blatant religious message into the storyline that completely undercuts any of the suspense that the film attempts to generate. Further hampering the effort is that the production becomes lazy with it’s villain which also dilutes any amount of emotional attachment with survivors.

Let me be honest – Religious propaganda and fictional films rarely compliment each other. Like the infamous genre of “comedy-horror,” the two aspects simply can not live in concert without one eventually drowning out the other. Either your film has a religious (usually Judeo-Christian) slant to it or it doesn’t; Either your film is a comedy or it is not.

“Vanishing” begins to lay on it’s religious undertones rather thick – It’s main characters have biblical names; The bar is located at 7th and Seal street (get it? Get It?); A lingering plot detail concerns a church and a little girl dressed in white; At one point, apples (think “Garden of Eden”) are featured prominently, there is lingering darkness for 3 days… And the list goes on and on.

Individually these sly hints aren’t detrimental to the film but, like the persistent shadows in the film, their sum is greater then their individual parts. What is truly awful about the film is that it is attempting to prove a point but a point about what? Sinners die and the virtuous don’t? That’s not accurate. That God will save everyone who files into a church? Not really, according to other events in the movie. That what’s happening in the movie is the modern equivalent of what happened to the Roanoak colony in Virginia, right down to the Croatoan word scrawled onto a bridge? If so, then why? Why does a solar-powered bus terminal’s lights flicker at opportune times but a little girl’s solar-powered flashlight always work?

This film is, by no means, an adventure or survival film in the classic sense. Once the few money shots are shown, a lot of the action resides inside the bar or on a nearby street. There’s no running from building to building, and the small number of cast members means that there is little whittling of the cast throughout the movie until the very end.

A troubling aspect of the film is that the shadows do not display any set rules – Lights work on a whim or don’t; Voices are heard or not; The generator barely sputters along or runs fine; Most people instantly vanished but some didn’t. The film isn’t so much “Night of the Comet” where, if you didn’t actually witness the comet, you lived and if you did see it, you became a pile of Tang; It’s more Lovecraftian where the shadows toy mercilessly with the survivors much like a child plays with their food before devouring it at their will.

The ending is also a bit puzzling; Is the catastrophe over? Most likely it isn’t since we still see the moaning, groaning shadows despite the sunlight. Then what’s the big deal about the sunrise? The survivors are going to be decimated at nightfall. Was only one city affected or was the entire world affected? If only one city was affected, wouldn’t that mean you’d see something at the city borders other then more nothingness? An entire city is wiped out and the rest of the nation decides to sleep in?

“Vanishing on 7th Street” has a great opening act but nothing to follow it up with except for a bunch of religious rhetoric that doesn’t add up to a cohesive message. John Leguizamo & Hayden Christensen are wasted in roles that could have been filled by any number of off-the-shelf, C-list actors needing a big break in Hollywood.

The remake of “The Crazies” prospered because it ditched George Romero’s heavy-handed messages and simply decided to tell a story (to be fair, The Crazies has it’s own set of faults); “Battle Los Angeles” doesn’t explain a lot about the aliens besieging planet Earth but at least it’s consistent in how it treats the enemy and concentrates on stories rather then message. “Vanishing on 7th Street,” sadly, doesn’t follow those two movies’ leads – It’s saddled with an increasingly burdensome and puzzling religious message and doesn’t even give the viewer a consistent enemy to root against. As a result, the film fails to resonate with viewers after the effective opening act and feels more like a chore to watch all of the way through.

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