Review: Vanishing on 7th Street (15) / Directed by: Brad Anderson / Screenplay by: Anthony Jaswinski / Starring: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, Jacob Latimore / Release date: Out Now
Brad Anderson started his career strong with the psychological thrillers Session 9 and The Machinist. He then went on to direct Transiberian which ended up going straight to DVD in the UK and has recently been working as a director on the superior TV show Fringe. His latest, Vanishing on 7th Street has also gone direct to DVD in the UK. Whilst it’s by no means a great film, it perhaps doesn’t deserve the critical mauling it got last year when it came out Stateside.
The plot is as simple as they come - one day, during a blackout, everyone vanishes leaving behind just their clothes. A few survivors wander around looking for other people and find that there is something living in the shadows, something that mimics the voices of others they have lost. As the days mysteriously get shorter, a small band of survivors hold up in a bar with the last remaining light sources they can find to try and avoid being consumed by the shadows.
Vanishing on 7th Street plays out like a feature length Twilight Zone episode and the lack of anything approaching a satisfying conclusion beyond the unique set-up makes me wonder if once upon a time this was a rejected script for an anthology TV show. The main problem is that for all of his stylish direction and ability to mount a creepy scene, Brad Anderson’s film has nowhere to go once the threat is defined. It’s almost like they had a great idea and were so excited by it they forgot to even make it into anything resembling a proper narrative structure. The actual ending feels like an afterthought and the kind of thing a film student would come up with for his thesis film because he thinks he is being arty and clever.
The film is notable for actually getting a decent performance out of Hayden Christensen though. He won’t win an Oscar for it, but he is less wooden than usual and does well portraying a desperate and frightened man who used to be a celebrity when the world was normal. Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo are also solid as his fellow survivors. Leguizamo in particlar is the most sympathetic figure and the one that you can identify with most if you happen to be unlucky in love. There is also something I felt whilst watching the film that I haven’t felt since watching Insidious a year or so ago, and that is a feeling of terror. Not run out of the room terror, where I never want to see these images again, but momentary feelings of panic. Anderson uses shadows brilliantly here; moments where dark figures emerge from the encroaching blanket of darkness are genuinely scary and will make you look that bit more carefully into the dark corners of your bedroom before you go to sleep.
I cant say that Vanishing on 7th Street is a great film but I can say that it’s a unique and well executed set up for a story that ultimately meanders and loses steam far sooner that it should. Brad Anderson is capable of so much more. If you are in the mood for a good scare it may well just give you that and sometimes that’s enough.