DIRECTED BY: Brad Anderson
FEATURING: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leuguizamo, Jordan Trovillion
PLOT: Several people take refuge in a city tavern when Detroit is inexplicably
plunged into darkness; simultaneously, most of the city’s population has mysteriously vanished.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Vanishing On 7th Street is a straightforward sci-fi horror flick. The premise is uniquely weird, but the movie itself is not.
COMMENTS: Something unknown has struck the city of Detroit. Something just … well just awful! All the lights have gone out, but batteries, small generators, and solar cells still work. Except that capacitor function is mysteriously waning, and there is dramatically less and less sunlight every day.
Even more disturbing is the fact that nearly everyone has suddenly vanished into thin air leaving only clothing and synthetic personal effects behind, such as eyeglasses, pacemakers and false teeth. Suits and dresses lie empty, still bearing the shapes of the people who were wearing them, right where they stood or sat when they disappeared. Driver-less vehicles careen into obstacles and un-piloted planes fall from the sky.
A brightly lit bar on 7th Street that is still powered thanks to a backup generator draws several people who survived the vanishing. It seems to be the only reserve generator still running, and it is starting to die despite adequate fuel.
What is this inky blackness that is spreading like a kerosene slick, slithering out of cracks and crevices, creeping up from grates, and oozing into open spaces where it devours people?
7th Street has a lot of potential, but the filmmakers try to make the characters “accessible” by having them behave irrationally. Ironically, it’s therefore difficult to have empathy for them. This is not the fault of the actors, who all deliver competent performances.
A lot of film time that could be devoted to exploring the vanishing phenomenon and to other, even scarier scenarios is wasted with senseless action, bickering and characters waxing maudlin. The survivors spend a lot of time arguing and doing very stupid, counterproductive things.
Disappointingly, they fail to do the obvious. Despite the fact that light is protecting them from the darkness, it never occurs to them to build a raging bonfire. Desperately scavenging old batteries, they never have a flash of insight to raid the Duracell racks at the nearest Walgreens. One day I would like to see brighter, more pragmatic people being challenged in a horror movie.
On the other hand, if something really happened such as what we see depicted in Vanishing On 7th Street, the film’s participants would probably be typical, given the cross section of the population I observe daily who cannot complete a simple ATM transaction in under 15 minutes. Perhaps merit in the choice of characters depends upon whether one expects good drama or fictional “documentary.”
The story in Vanishing has a few plot holes, but the basic idea is good and creepy. Despite wishing I had a fast forward button handy at times, the film mostly kept my attention and gave me goosebumps.
You may not find Vanishing On 7th Street to be the most thoughtful horror movie you have ever seen, but it is still fun. It is worth a peek for any but the most discriminating horror fans.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“What’s especially maddening about Vanishing on 7th Street is that there are some interesting elements to the film; they just get completely overlooked by the story. Much of the movie is kind of a weird version of the rapture, but its religious imagery is perfunctory and without any real thought behind it.”–Sean Gandert, Paste Magazine (contemporaneous)