Vanishing on 7th Street: Movie Review

Vanishing on 7th Street
Review by Michael Pickle,

Last month's DVD release of Vanishing on 7th Street was eagerly anticipated by myself and many other horror enthusiasts. The main reason being Director Brad Anderson. Not only did he create the mini-movie Sounds Like for Showtime's Masters of Horror (one of the more entertaining entries in the series) He wrote and directed the instant horror classic Session 9: One of the finest and genuinely creepy psychological horror films in the last 20 years. Films like Session 9 tend to set the standards of horror fans pretty high. It's this high standard that renders Vanishing on 7th Street ultimately disappointing both as a horror film and a psychological head scratcher.

Vanishing on 7th Street is set in Detroit, Michigan and opens with a mysterious, widespread power outage in which almost everyone disappears into thin air leaving the sprawling metropolis virtually empty. We begin following the plight of the few remaining survivors. Paul (John Leguizamo) is a movie theater projectionist who comes down from the booth to find that everyone in the theater and the entire mall has vanished leaving behind only piles of clothing. Television reporter Luke (Hayden Christensen) leaves his apartment to find crashed and empty cars in the streets as a commercial jet falls out of the sky behind him. Physical therapist Rosemary (Thandie Newton) wanders a hospital finding only one poor man with his body opened up mid-surgery only to see shadows overtake and consume him.

Days later the survivors slowly make their way to a bar on 7th Street with a generator fueling the city's only source of light. Inside they find 12 year old James (Jacob Latimore) alone and waiting for his mother who went to a nearby church to find survivors. With the days growing progressively shorter and the generator losing fuel; the frightened stragglers must band together to stay in the light and away from the deceptive and growing shadows who try to draw them into the darkness.

Vanishing is not a bad film. It's quite effective at creating a sense of isolation and impending doom, but it's more or less a one-trick pony. There are so many promising concepts that are never explored. For instance: Luke finds footage of a newscaster saying that someone called to him from the shadows. Someone who had been dead for years. This is a concept that was never expanded upon beyond that scene. Things like this make this film feel like a decent Twilight Zone episode that never goes anywhere and provides little to no answers.

Another great concept of the shadows deceiving people into stepping out of the light would have been more compelling had the weak characters not been so easy to deceive. That's not to say they were bad actors. On the contrary; the acting was mostly very good. Especially Hayden Christensen, from Star Wars Episode II & III, who saves the film from being utterly monotonous. The characters are inconsistent and lack any depth or intelligence. They make bad, convoluted decisions and learn nothing from their ordeal. They seem clever and insightful one minute and ignorant and flighty the next.

One of my major issues with Vanishing is the lack of originality; especially pertaining to the shadows themselves. The shadow effect is almost exactly the same effect that was used in the 1990 film Ghost with Patrick Swayze. The shadows come to life and approach their victims in exactly the same way and even make the same sound of muted, disembodied screams and whispers. The major difference being that the shadows in Ghost were used more sparingly and to much more frightening effect. Vanishing stimulates the imagination with unnerving scenes of an abandoned city, great acting and darkness coming to life, but it never comes full circle. The build-up seems to be leading to an exciting and satisfying climax. Sadly, the outcome is more like the film equivalent to blue balls.

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