Vanishing On 7th Street taps into one of humankind’s most primal anxieties: fear of the dark. An unexplained blackout plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, and by the time the sun rises, only a few people remain-surrounded by heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. A small handful of strangers that have survived the night (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo and Jacob Latimore) each find their way to a rundown bar. With daylight beginning to disappear completely and whispering shadows surrounding the survivors, they soon discover that the enemy is the darkness itself.
eyelights: its core premise. its eerie vibe.
eyesores: its nebulous ending.
“We can wait till morning.” “You sure there’s one coming?”
‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ is a 2011 supernatural thriller that takes us to a Detroit City that suddenly goes completely dark. When the emergency lights go on, only a handful of people remain – the others have dematerialized, leaving only their clothing and belongings.
Confused, the few people who remain scour the city for others like them, but they also vanish as quickly as they are found, surrounded by creeping shadows. This leaves Luke, Rosemary, Paul and James to escape the darkness alone in a local bar that has a gas-powered generator.
‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ is a motion picture that I’d heard really good things about. Though I initially ignored it (I wasn’t alone – the picture was sadly only released in six cinemas!) due to Hayden Christensen’s involvement, word kept coming back to me that it was well worth seeing.
So I picked it up.
And then it gathered dust on my shelf, no doubt again due to the bad taste Christensen leaves in my mouth. But when I realized that it was helmed by Brad Andersen, who brought to the screen the inimitable ‘Session 9‘ and ‘The Machinist’, I decided that I had to finally give it a chance.
I’m glad that I did: ‘Vanishing…’ is the kind of horror film that doesn’t rely on gore or cheap scares to build suspense – it’s the type that immerses the audience in a spooky setting and builds tension by provoking uncertainty. It understands that the greatest fear is of the unknown.
Especially when this unknown is a threat.
The picture delights in leaving its audience in the dark: From the start we are faced with an empty city, à la ’28 Day Later’, every day the sun rises later and goes down earlier, and shadows people appear on the walls everywhere. But we don’t know why that is; it all defies science and logic.
The picture not only taps into our primal fears, but it also depends on our knowledge of an arcane historical event: the mysterious disappearances of Roanoke Island in the late 16th century. Though it alludes to it a few times, this may be lost on people who have never heard of this.
But it’s a weird and goosepimpling addition to the picture: Apparently a colony had settled on Roanoke Island in 1587. After an incident with the local indigenous population, Governor White went to England to ask for help. But, upon his return in 1590, there was no sign of the colony.
It was as though they had never been there.
And they were never found.
Another bone-chilling aspect of the picture is its ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ quality, with all four of its main characters locked up in one location, unable to escape it and trying to figure out how they will survive. Naturally, tensions build between them, throwing sparks at the powderkeg.
The cast is generally up to the task, though the material is neither meaty enough to be of ‘NOTLD’ caliber nor are the performances able to transcend it. Surprisingly, Hayden Christensen had improved since his ‘Star Wars’ days and sometimes offered the crazed/desperate look of Mel Gibson.
Not bad. Not at all bad.
So, while ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ has a nebulous dénouement that I didn’t fully understand, it was well-conceived enough that I rather enjoyed it. I will no doubt give it another shot someday, though I would more likely watch ‘NOTLD’, ‘The Mist‘ or even ‘Pontypool‘ well before this.
‘Vanishing…’ is in the same category, if not the same class.
Date of viewing: October 26, 2016