Directed by Brad Anderson, “Vanishing on 7th Street” is a post-apocalyptic survivor story. A mysterious blackout has caused the disappearance of the most of the world’s population, leaving only piles of deflated clothing behind. Days later, strange shadows and silhouettes haunt the remaining survivors, threatening to engulf them in the darkness. Their only protection is to stay out of the dark by hoarding glow sticks, flashlights, and other sources of light.
Like other low-budget thrillers, a small group of survivors converge at a single location (in this case, a bar with a generator), and debate why they were spared and what they should do next. Like “The Mist,” “Vanishing” offers some religious interpretations and arguments, but lacks the far more interesting examination of how people turn on one another in times of crisis.
Although the film only consists of a cast of four people, viewers are never given the time or reason to invest in the heroes. As Anderson reveals more and more about his characters – the loved ones they’ve lost, the mistakes they’ve made – I couldn’t help but feel like someone was constantly trying to manipulate me. As a result, the characters’ sob stories are ineffective, and by the end of the movie, I didn’t care who lived or who died.
It doesn’t help that none of the characters feel like real people. Instead of fleshed out individuals, the film’s heroes are predictable and formulaic. They’re characters we’ve seen in countless other films: a self-involved man who only seems to care about himself (Hayden Christensen), a young boy who tries to act tough, but who just wants human interaction (Jacob Latimore), a mother whose lost her baby and quickly becomes the boy’s nurturer and protector (Thandie Newton), and an injured survivor (John Leguizamo) who possess some obscure knowledge that provides a possible explanation for the mystery (and who only exists to impede the other survivors, as they feel too guilty to leave him behind).
The movie offers a few good scares, but the slowly encroaching shadows and piles of clothing quickly become dull and predictable. The deserted city landscapes often feel contrived and aren’t as effective at conveying the impact of the loss as a movie like “28 Days Later.” Anderson tries to add variety by introducing a few interesting visuals, but “Vanishing” misses too many opportunities to capitalize on the juxtaposition of light and darkness.
Christensen’s performance, especially when required to display emotion, is never convincing, and Newton is guilty of some serious over-acting.
The finale has some strong religious connotations that could be more fully realized after multiple viewings. Unfortunately, the film’s thin characterization, lack-luster thrills, and disappointing performances do not inspire a second try.
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