Review: Vanishing On 7th Street DVD

Vanishing on 7th Street DVD boxSTUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Brad Anderson | CAST: Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, Thandie Newton, Jacob Latimore
RELEASE DATE: 5/17/11 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurette, alternate endings, digital copy
SPECS: R | 91 min. | Horror thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1; DTS Surround Sound | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

More chiller than thriller, Vanishing On 7th Street is the latest creepy little movie from Brad Anderson, whose previous Session 9 and The Machinist proved that he’s adept in serving up the kind of atmosphere and tension required for a small “horror” movie that doesn’t want to trade in gore, monsters and psychotics. Anderson delivers more of the same in this latest project, where the scares come not from what’s lurking in the shadows, but rather the shadows themselves.

Vanishing on 7th Street movie scene

John Leguizamo is stalked by darkness in Vanishing on 7th Street.

Things get going quickly in Vanishing On 7th Street: Five minutes in, a seemingly widespread power outage in daytime Detroit plunges the city into complete darkness, “dissolving” virtually everyone in the entire population and leaving only their crumpled clothing in its wake. A small handful of people somehow remain unaffected: TV journalist Hayden Christensen (Takers), projectionist John Leguizamo (Carlito’s Way), hospital doctor Thandie Newton (For Colored Girls) and terrified youngster Jacob Latimore.

The foursome holes up in a well-lit local bar and slowly deduces it’s the darkness that’s behind the citywide apocalypse and that one must stay in the light — any light — to avoid being seized by the maleficent, moving shadows that appear to have taken on a life of their own. So, the survivors must keep the bar’s fading generator running so they can “hide” in the light from the dark’s growing power — and then they must figure out how to get the hell out of there!

Elements of the film are reminiscent of such flicks as Night of the Comet and Pitch Black, and the shadow stalkers — which are mounted with subtle but effective CGI f/x — remind me of those underworld apparitions that claimed Tony Goldwyn at the end of Ghost.

But Vanishing is still a fresh and effective exercise of its own. No straight-forward explanations are given — parallel universes, black holes and un-divine intervention are quickly mentioned — but that’s okay, as the overall package is, again, more about the atmospherics and interactions between the characters, all of whom are well-drawn and realistic. The ambiguous nature of the terror might not work for those looking for solid answers, but others will key into the growing sense of dread that pervades the film.

Among the bonus features on the DVD are a trio of alternate endings that are thematically identical to the one used in the film, though they’re visualized differently.

There’re also a couple of brief featurettes that find an enthusiastic cast and crew talking about the project. At one point, screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski offers that it all started with an idea about wanting to write a horror movie set in a bar that didn’t have a traditional monster and how Anderson’s film came through on his screenplays’s promise.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.