The will to exist in ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ won’t save you from the darkness

Thandie Newton ( 'For Colored People' ) and Hayden Christensen ( 'Takers' ) lead a strong but small cast of survivors in the post-apocalyptic film 'Vanishing on 7th Street'

Let me start off with this: either you’ll love it or you’ll hate it. There really is no beginning, no plot, and no ending. It doesn’t explain what happens to the living or the dead, and there’s no such thing as hope. It’s a movie that stays in the end of days for its remaining survivors (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, Jacob Lattimore, and John Leguizamo), and it doesn’t go backwards or forwards. Rather, it emotionally and mentally shows the utter frustration of being alone (right after a traumatic event) and the will to exist when the unexplainable – losing a family member or your entire family, being left in a place foreign to you, etc. – happens. It plays off of human vulnerability and hesitant compassion. That being said, you’ll either love it for its realism (not necessarily having to do with the post-apocalyptic theme) or hate it because (to quote several reviews and comments on this film from various sites) there’s “no point” to the film.

Official Promotional Poster

Brad Anderson’s Vanishing on 7th Street (2010) is a post-apocalyptic horror film that doesn’t rely on using CGI or After Effects for scariness. Instead, he uses old-school horror tactics to create a terrifying, intriguing, and beautiful movie that is stunningly dauntless. Also, the cinematography is spot on, vibrant in color (even though darkness plays a huge part of the movie), and breathtaking. Most viewers will expect gore, violence, and some crazy unexplainable manifestation; other than manifest, the movie steers away from brutal physicality. Despite the movie’s setting (post-apocalypse), associating it with the horror genre is a bit of an overstatement and gives the impression that it’s a bunch of characters running around aimlessly from bizarre creatures. Not really. I consider this film more of a thriller (so sorry if you were expecting any torture). Sure, there is a lot of aimless running, but keep in mind that there is no beginning, plot, or ending (how else would you direct this film?); the film’s point is what happens during the heat of the moment when vulnerability and the last amount of will to survive is your only reason for existing.

John Leguizamo Vanishing on 7th Street

We start out at an AMC movie theater where booth crew member Paul (Leguizamo) plays a movie for the audience. Afterwards, he sits and reads about the Roanoake colony – whose disappearance still remains a mystery. Our foreshadow is that very scene, and less than 5 minutes into the film, our audience vanishes with no explanation. When the light reappears, we find ourselves in a now abandoned hospital where unstable physical therapist Rosemary (Newton) screams hysterically for her 9 month old baby. Flash forward to the next day, and an oblivious Luke (Christensen) heads to work – eventually realizing that the entire Detroit population is gone with only clothes remaining. Three days pass, and Luke finds a bar – the only place that displays any light in the darkness. He meets James (Latimore) – an adolescent kid who’s been searching for his mother. The surviving characters eventually form a bond, and the film goes from there. From then on, you’re sucked into the intensity and fear the characters bring along and hope – with some kind of miracle – they live to see the next day.

Jacob Latimore and Thandie Newton in Vanishing on 7th Street

If you’ve been looking up reviews for this film, you’ll notice that it’s been bashed; to be honest, it really wasn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, it was actually pretty good for a B-Movie. (Yes, this is a B-movie that had to work with a budget that couldn’t budge). The most impressive part and perhaps the most terrifying of the piece is the cinematography. We have a scenery that’s built, filled with life, and breathes existence, but from the ground down, it’s lifeless. And by the end of the film, we are welcomed with sun but no humanity to preserve the beauty. However, this kind of scenery can be seen in other post-apocalyptic films ( i.e.: I Am Legend (2007), 28 Days Later (2002) ), but the dramatic camera movements and shots help it stand out from similar movies.

Because there is no explanation as to what has happened to the living/dead, it can be noted that the film may take on a Biblical theme. The vanishings are similar to how the disappearances are in Christian film Left Behind (2001). As well, the characters names (Luke, James, Rosemary, and Paul) are related to Biblical characters/features. However, because the film leaves so many open-ended questions, the film can also be interpreted as a way to show what is happening to humans today. The vanishings could be a symbolization of the existence of technological advances; because we rely on so much technology on a daily basis, it’s as if we have lost our identity since we hide behind screen monitors, cell phones, and other devices.

Overall, Vanishing on 7th Street isn’t the kind of horror/thriller film you’d expect. It’s an intelligent piece that is thought-provoking and wants its audience to come up with their own conclusion (so if you’re looking for beginning, plot, and end, you will hate it). The film isn’t boring though, but it can feel repetitive after a while. However, Anderson’s directing, the cinematography, and the actors (who are convincing and give a good performance) make the film as good as it can get.

This film runs 92 minutes long and is Rated R.

Grade: B


One thought on “The will to exist in ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ won’t save you from the darkness

  1. There was a slight breath of tension and mystery in the air that kept me interested, but the overall pay-off is just terrible and what happens to these characters we know and stay with the whole time, just didn’t do anything for me. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!

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