Blu-Ray Review: ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ Likely to Disappear Into Horror History

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CHICAGO – Horror writers and directors have been afraid of the dark since the start of the genre. Sadly, that fear of blackness has never translated to film as successfully as one would hope. There’s an inherent problem in watching a movie about darkness in that it can never make that fear fully real unless it goes to complete black screen. The latest entry in this flawed subgenre is Brad Anderson’s “Vanishing on 7th Street,” a minor work from a major director. Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0

I adore Brad Anderson. “Session 9,” “The Machinist,” “Transsiberian,” his great TV work (including “Fringe,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme,” “The Wire,” “The Shield,” and one of the best episodes of “Masters of Horror) — the man would make my list of the most underrated directors alive. I had heard enough negative press on “Vanishing on 7th Street” that I dreaded it a bit. We don’t like to see our favorite artists stumble. Luckily, it’s not THAT major a stumble. There are some interesting ideas here and I think Anderson does his best with a weak screenplay. It’s nothing that I don’t expect him to be able to get beyond with his next project.

Vanishing on 7th Street was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 17, 2011
Vanishing on 7th Street was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 17, 2011
Photo credit: Magnolia Home Video

One of the elements I admire about Anderson is his willingness to take chances within very familiar structures. “Vanishing on 7th Street” was clearly inspired by “The Twilight Zone” — it often plays like an extended episode — but Anderson gives it much more breathing room (sometimes too much). The first twenty minutes feature almost no dialogue at all, an amazing feat in 2011 cinema.

Sadly, the dialogue does kick in and we’re treated to some pretty ham-fisted junk from a screenplay that doesn’t once understand how real people respond in crisis. It doesn’t help to have Hayden Christensen giving yet another unbelievable performance or Thandie Newton proving that very few actresses can over-act like she can. In the right material, Hayden and Thandie can work, but they are not effective here. It’s a big problem when you don’t have heroes to root for in a horror movie. “Vanishing on 7th Street” has that problem.

Vanishing on 7th Street was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 17, 2011
Vanishing on 7th Street was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 17, 2011
Photo credit: Magnolia Home Video

The set-up is straight out of Rod Serling 101. In perhaps the film’s most effective scene, a projectionist (John Leguizamo) with a light strapped to his forehead is standing in the booth above a crowded theater in a mall when the lights go out. Without a sound, everyone but our film man disappears. He heads out into the mall to find a security guard with a flashlight as the only other survivor and that quickly changes. Eventually, the movie theater employee, a reporter (Christensen), and a grieving mother (Newton) end up in a bar as they realize the darkness around them is trying to snuff them out.

The script for “Vanishing on 7th Street” is the weakest point but Anderson doesn’t escape blame free. The scenes of darkness creeping in are pitched way too high with loud music and unnecessary sound effects. Why do the shadows need to whisper and moan? To try and make them scarier? It just makes them sillier. I wanted more subtlety and the moments that do work aren’t as over-the-top as the majority of the movie.

There are some great ideas here, especially with the predicted Rapture coming this weekend. How do we move on from not just impending doom but unimaginable tragedy? What if everyone disappeared? Would you wonder where they went or wonder why you didn’t go too? Would you give up? Or fight an apparently Biblical force? I liked the ideas of “Vanishing,” just not the execution.

“Vanishing on 7th Street” isn’t horrendous. It will make a satisfactory late-night viewing for many horror fans. But we’ve come to expect more from Anderson. Don’t let this be your only sampling of his work. It’s a small misstep from a director who should be huge, a movie that won’t be remembered for how bad it is nor how good — it will just disappear.

Special Features:
o Alternate Endings
o Creating the Mood on 7th Street
o Reveal the Vanishing On 7th Street
o Behind the Scenes Montage
o Fangoria Interviews with Director Brad Anderson and Actor Jacob Latimore
o HDNet: A Look at Vanishing On 7th Street
o Commentary with Director Brad Anderson
o BD Live Enabled

Vanishing on 7th Street” stars Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, and John Leguizamo. It was directed by Brad Anderson. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 17th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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