BLU-RAY REVIEW: Vanishing on 7th Street
Confusing, atmospheric thriller brings a unique end to the civilized world...
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Another recent MAGNET film (following the release of I Saw the Devil and Black Death), Vanishing on 7th Street sets the world in darkness, revealing an end to the world unlike any seen before on film. And, while the film's story may be every bit as confusing as it is shocking, Vanishing on 7th Street still provides plenty of fun for those willing to tolerate its somewhat confusing story and lack of resolution.
Starring a decent ensemble cast including Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, Taylor Groothuis, Thandie Newton, and Jacob Latimore, Vanishing on 7th Street opens during a regular evening in the life of Detroit; busy streets, busy shopping centers, busy office buildings, busy freeways and streets. Suddenly the electric goes out, darkness encompasses the city and, seconds later, people are missing and piles of clothes are lying everywhere. Is it the rapture? We don't know, and neither do the five survivors who must struggle to stay alive in a world turned upside down.
Throughout Vanishing on 7th Street, our five main character's motivations are revealed. As we get to know these men, women and children, we learn not only more about them, but more about what they have in common and what they have to gain (or lose) by staying alive. The film's story eventually finds all five main characters meeting in a well-lit bar on 7th Street three days after the blackout, suspicious of everything and avoid the shadows, which seem to move with an uncanny awareness all their own.
First, let's admit it: Vanishing on 7th Street isn't the most original of films. It seems today end of the world movies are a dime a dozen. In fact, it's hard to find a night when one isn't on cable TV. However, unlike many previously released end of the world-type movies, Vanishing on 7th Street avoids the convolution of a simple explanation and instead forces viewers to think and focuses on the characters and their struggles. There's no easy or predictable resolution in store for our survivors and, while the ending may seem cliche to some, it's one of the most unpredictable ever.
In fact, the film not only avoids revealing what has happened, but a so to do the filmmakers in their audio commentary. And, while this may seem slightly shady to some (no pun intended!), it also makes the film seem poorly conceived as well. In fact, I'm still trying to decide what I think happened and, even having watched the special features, I'm at a loss as to if the filmmakers ever even knew. If one can get over this major frustration, Vanishing on 7th Street is a fairly well shot, enjoyable and fun film. It's maybe not the most understandable of films, but it'll make you think, make you jump and, if you enjoy end of the world movies, make you smile.
As for the video, the 1080p transfer provides a good picture, though director Brad Anderson admits to shooting the film with the Red One camera, which doesn't shoot well in low light. Considering the film is essentially shot on dark and low-light sets, the video was doctored a lot in post production. This obviously affects the film's look, ensuring the film's atmosphere stays scary and dark.
As for the audio, everyone knows a good soundtrack makes or breaks a horror film and, while this isn't a horror film per say, it still features a soundtrack that'd make a horror fan proud. Plenty of haunting sound effects fill the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, ensuring there's never a moment of comfort or rest. In fact, one will find it hard to find a moment where your not tense, waiting for something to jump out at you.
As for special features, the blu-ray includes a director's commentary in which director Brad Anderson reveals much about his way of shooting the film, but little (read: nada) about the film's plot or set-up. The blu-ray also includes a number of "alternate endings," though they're only rearranged shots with (again) no real resolution to the film. A short 7-minute featurette, "Revealing the Vanishing on 7th Street" shows the cast and crew talking about their roles, how much they enjoyed the film, and each other. A shorter, 4-minute featurette, "Creating the Mood on 7th Street," in which the cast and crew talk about the film's odd setting and plot. A short 2-minute behind-the-scenes compilation as well as HDNet's "A Look at Vanishing on 7th Street" is also included. Finally, 30 minutes of Fangoria Interviews are included as is the film's theatrical trailer.
Overall, I found Vanishing on 7th Street an enjoyable film with plenty of thrills. I found it refreshing to have the option to come to my own conclusions regarding the film's ending and the fate of the film's main characters. And, while I may never know what really happened, I'm at least content to know it was an enjoyable ride getting there.
Vanishing on 7th Street is rated R for language and is available on blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley