Rewind Review: 2010’s ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’

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Vanishing on 7th Street is a complicated mix of metaphysical, psychological, and apocalyptic Horror directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist, Transsiberian).  It stars Hayden Christensen (Star Wars, Jumper), Thandie Newton (Retreat, The Chronicles of Riddick), and John Leguizamo (Spawn, Land of the Dead).

Per Wikipedia: “The movie was initially released for Zune and Xbox Live members prior to its theatrical release. Shown in only six theaters across the United States, Vanishing on 7th Street was a total theatrical flop. The film grossed $22,197, roughly 1/450 of its estimated budget of $10 Million.  However, it made $1,045,953 outside of the United States, with over a quarter of this total coming from South Korea.” Go figure.

Check out my review after the jump.

Official Synopsis: When a massive power outage plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find themselves alone. The entire city’s population has vanished into thin air, leaving behind heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. Soon the daylight begins to disappear completely, and as the survivors gather in an abandoned tavern, they realize the darkness is out to get them, and only their rapidly diminishing light sources can keep them safe.

Vanishing on 7th Street kicks off with a theater projectionist named Paul (Leguizamo) reading a book about “The Lost Colony” of Roanoke, Virginia.  It’s one of Americas most enduring unsolved mysteries: One of England’s first New World colonies, a supply ship found the settlement completely abandoned in 1590.  The only cryptic clue to the fate of the colonists was a word carved into a tree: CROATOAN.  Theories about what actually happened range from assimilation into native tribes to alien abduction and just about everything in between.  Writer Anthony Jaswinski uses the legend of The Lost Colony as a precedent to the events in this film, providing both a context and a potential explanation–one of MANY potential explanations, to be sure.

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Paul must be the smartest movie projectionist in the world; while it’s an impossible situation to wrap one’s mind around, he’s somehow certain it’s not a wormhole, a parallel universe, a nanotechnology outbreak, an atomic event–because “The math just doesn’t add up.”  His character has book smarts and he’s clearly open-minded enough to postulate on metaphysical explanations.  But just saying it’s a reoccurrence of the Roanoke phenomena isn’t exactly illuminating.  When the majority of Detroit up and vanished, they leave behind clothes and other non-biological items (jewelry and dentures, for example).  Sure it kind of reminds me of the aftermath of the cosmic event in Night of the Comet, but it’s probably most reminiscent of Rapture films like Left Behind.

Rosemary (Newton) represents this religious interpretation of the mass disappearances and unnaturally long nights.  Luke (Christensen) represents both closed-minded rationality and self-preservations.  He’s just as curious as the others about the cause of this disaster, but thinks both Paul and Rosemary are off the mark.  Ultimately, he’s just looking out for himself.  This crew is rounded out by James (Jacob Latimore), a young man still clinging to the hope that his mother will return and rescue him.  These different mind-sets and motivations make for some tense interactions and unlikely partnerships.

Vanishing on 7th Street feels familiar in many ways and draws numerous comparisons.  There are elements of Pulse (whispering voices, mass disappearances, and even a plane crash), Pitch Black (creatures in the darkness, light as protection), Darkness and They…  What sets it apart from these other films, however, is the fact that Vanishing on 7th Street never settles on any parameters.  The closest thing we have to an antagonist is the darkness itself.  Sure, I appreciate a film that asks me to use my imagination, but this movie doesn’t even point me in a general direction; the possibilities are just too numerous and disparate.  Without something more concrete, all I can really imagine is an inky blackness.  Sure it’s scary, but hardly terrifying.

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The films conclusion is haunting yet hopeful, setting up a potential Adam & Eve scenario that implies a potential come-back for humanity (although the event itself shows no sign of letting up).  I really enjoy films that leave the door open for various interpretations but this one seems to allow for the possibility of just about anything.  A UFO, a broken medical vial, a legion of avenging angels–take your pick or create your own theory.  If, however, you like a certain amount of resolution in your films, then Vanishing on 7th Street will surly disappoint.

Vanishing looks great and the performances are great all around (this cast has skills for certain), but it never really pushes a vague sense of dread into actual terror.  I’m paying attention, but hardly at the edge of my seat.  I can’t help but think this film may have had more resonance if there was a more unified theme or theory at it’s core.  An unprecedented event on a global scale needs something to ground it, otherwise it’s not much more than philosophical masturbation.

Vanishing on 7th Street may be attempting to tap into our collective post-9/11 anxieties by proposing a scenario that is sudden, shocking, and seemingly impossible, but it’s number one flaw is it’s lack of focus.  Ultimately, this film fails to present a truly compelling horror experience.  It’s not bad, but is not great either; less impactful than its peers and dismissible.

I noticed that the three male leads, Luke, Paul and James, are all named after Saints.  The film’s climax also takes place in a church.  But since a religious explanation is as likely as any other theory proposed in Vanishing, I may be reading too much into this.

2.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.

Trailer: HERE

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Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Norton Herrick
Tove Christensen
Celine Rattray
Written by Anthony Jaswinski
Starring Hayden Christensen
Thandie Newton
John Leguizamo
Jacob Latimore
Music by Lucas Vidal
Cinematography Uta Briesewitz
Editing by Jeffrey Wolf
Studio Herrick Entertainment
Mandalay Vision
Distributed by Magnet Releasing
Release date
  • September 12, 2010 (2010-09-12)
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About Saucy Josh

I write a blog for intelligent Horror movie aficionados called Blood and Guts for Grown Ups: https://bloodandgutsforgrownups.wordpress.com/ View all posts by Saucy Josh

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