Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vanishing on 7th Street

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Vanishing on 7th Street - 2 out of 5

The first ten minutes of this film sets the bar high in this apocalyptic thriller.  John Leguizamo stars as a projectionist at a theater and as he's about to switch the reels of the film, the power goes out.  The headlamp strapped to his forehead is the only light around and, shocked to hear no sounds coming from the audience in the theater, he leaves the booth to discover he is alone.  Piles of clothes litter the ground and an silence so thick, it practically suffocates him as he searchs for another person.  He quickly finds a security guard in the attached mall and together, they search for more people but stop, after believing they spotted something in one of the shops.  After the guard's flashlight goes out, he suddenly disappears.  John Leguizamo's character believes he can see something moving about in the shadows but armed only with a small light around his head, he can't see much.  That is, until his light starts to fade and the shadows attack.

John's face looks like he just remembered doing Super Mario Bros.

Wow!  The opening to this film is awesome and I really thought I was going to see something scary, unique and special...sadly, that didn't happen.

Meet the film's antagonist...darkness.

Oh no, Harold Camping was right!
Vanishing on 7th Street is loaded with potential.  The story is great and spooky.  The story is even one of those that won't tell the audience the "why" and only shows what is happening.  The writers decided to let the audience decide what exactly is the threat that is attacking a small bunch of survivors who suddenly find themselves some of the only people walking the planet as darkness starts to fall over them and even the sun seems to come a little later and stick around less.  While the film offers many clues (basically a lot of Biblical references) that may suggest that what is occurring is the rapture and the darkness is the devil coming to claim those who weren't initially taken, the reality is, the movie will never come out and tell you.  In fact, it even offers up some other theories.

At the beginning of the film, Leguizamo's character is reading up on dark matter and starts to read about the lost colony of Roanoke.  If you're not familiar with the story, the Roanoke Colony was an English settlement in the 1500's that completely disappeared.  Not a single sign of those who lived in the settlement could be found and the only clue to their location was the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree.  Initial investigations believed that the settlement carved this to signify that they moved to the Croatoan Island, not far away--although this was never confirmed.  Over the years, archeologists have tried to come up with realistic solutions for this "Lost Colony," while different individuals have come up with...more creative solutions for this disappearance.  This reference, and other references to this colony within the film may lead the viewer to believe that whatever supernatural beast that took "the Lost Colony" may be back and in a bigger way.  Or maybe it isn't the rapture or some monster.  Maybe it's aliens?  Or maybe it's the most elaborate prank ever pulled?  No one knows because the writers leave you asking more questions than when you first come into the film and, in my opinion, that is just fantastic.  I like it when films don't lay everything out for you and let you decide what exactly you are seeing.  

In this movie, smoking actually saved someone's life.  The producers of this film:  The Tobacco Industry.

It's this aspect of the film leaving you with more questions than answers that made the film really work.  The one thing that hurt it--and hurt it in a big way--is the actors and characters.  Now, John Leguizamo does a fantastic job in his role and his character, at the beginning, seems like someone we can get some vested interest into.  However, as the film progresses past the ten minute mark, the new survivors are introduced.  First off, you have Hayden Christensen...if we haven't already learned this from two Star Wars prequels, this movie will only reinforce the fact that Hayden can't act to save his life.  In this film, his acting only gets worse as he tries to out-do Nicolas Cage in the intense department and we already know that no one can out-overly-intense a scene than Nic Cage.  Following Hayden is Thandie Newton--a terrific actress but her character lacks any and all sanity.  Okay, that may not sound like a bad thing because sometimes crazy characters work but from a logical standpoint, her insanity makes no sense to the events transpiring.

Congratulations Hayden, you make even the simple act of concern searching look like you're overacting.

The survivors all come together 72 hours after the initial event.  Now, in order to survive against the shadows and looming darkness, a person must have a personal light source--that's why the creature, demon or what-have-you attacked Leguizamo's character--his headlight started to go out.  So, Thandie Newton's character was able to survive the first wave and was able to figure out how to survive, do so for 72 hours and make it through a wasteland that is the city to meet up with other survivors.  How can a completely emotionally broken down individual, on the border of losing their mind, be able to do this?  Was she fine until she met other people?

Most children I know aren't capable of going to the bathroom without almost killing themselves, how do movie children survive the apocalypse alone?

The problem with the characters become even worse as we get some children surviving.  Normally this isn't a problem but when these kids are only a fraction better at acting than Hayden, then you have a problem.  The fact of the matter is that none of these survivors appeal to the viewer.  Aside from Leguizamo, most can't make their performances look natural and none of the characters have any redeeming qualities.  They aren't exactly painted as bad people but the problem is, there's no painting them really anyway.  Although the film tries to offer up some background stories for each of them, the dimensions to these characters are so flat and monochrome, I found myself not caring what their fate turned out to be.

Apparently The Walking Dead starts playing in this movie at some point.

Why do the monsters never attack animals in these
type of movies?
Vanishing on 7th Street had amazing promise.  The filmmakers use of light and shadow to create tension was fantastic and it felt like any moment scares could come rushing up and swallow you.  Sadly, the film never really capitalizes on the scare factor but it was chilling enough to keep my interest.  Also, with the film leaving out all the answers and only giving you questions about what happened was a great touch and made for an engaging film.  However, the writing department decided to phone in the characters and most of the cast was filled with actors who either felt like they didn't care about the project or who's acting abilities were so bad and distracting, that it made the entire film suffer in a big way.  I really wanted to like this film but when you have a movie about people trying to survive and you really don't care about them actually surviving, you did something wrong.

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