Monday, May 23, 2011

The Vanishing on 7th Street

I had heard of the movie, The Vanishing on 7th Street and the advance trailers had me wanting to see it. One of my favorite actors, John Leguizamo is in the film and while I haven’t always liked the movies he is in, I have enjoyed his talents as an actor. I was excited to review this movie especially with its haunting themes. In the movie there is a vanishing, much like a rapture that takes place in Detroit. In the shadows is an evil that takes not just the souls but the bodies of those it surrounds. The Vanishing follows the plights of several individuals who end up at a local bar trying to escape the horrors of the streets. In some ways there is a tribute here to the concepts originally presented in The Night of the Living Dead. Light keeps the shadows away, but unfortunately most of the power sources that keep the lights burning are gone and the days are getting shorter. The bar where the group gathers has a self powered generator, but the fuel is running out and those stuck in the bar have to find a way to keep on the light, otherwise, they will disappear to the creatures in the shadows.

The Vanishing plays like a smaller, well done, independent film. While there is some quality cinematography, good acting, and a nice story line, it is still lacking. Unfortunately most people are accustomed to big time CGI and scary monsters. While the film costs some 10 million dollars to make it just doesn’t come across as a picture of that caliber. While on a large scale this would still be considered by many as a small budget film, it had a large enough budget to have the picture look like a higher quality than it is. That isn’t to say that the direction provide by Brad Anderson is bad, but it isn’t great either. While there is a haunting and entertaining score, despite the poor acting by a quality cast, it falls short in the production. The overtly dark overtones and lackluster creatures were a let down.

In the story, there is a mass power outage. People start disappearing, leaving behind their clothing, cars, and aircraft, whatever with the bodies disappearing. What appears in the movie resembles what one would think would occur by the rapture which was supposed to happen on May 21. Unfortunately, as the story develops we have no idea what has caused the events and it appears as if the direction and story line care less about details like this. The story is simple, something crappy happens, people disappear, and the creatures in the shadows take people from their bodies. There are people hiding out in a bar and they have to find ways to create light. As the batteries in the flashlights start to go dead, they decide to get a truck and somehow use the truck to keep the generator in the bar going. In this seemingly Myst type of film by Steven King, we get lost. The characters seem to forget that alcohol burns, thus enabling them to start fires. An important premise, especially when considering they are in a bar. The viewer sees the characters as so stupid that we don’t mind it when they start droping off one by one. If that description sounds muddied you will get lost in the rest of the story line.

One of the problems with The Vanishing on 7th Street is the lack of direction with the characters. The lead role is never clear. Hayden Christensen plays Luke, the hero yet there is also Leguizamo playing the part of Paul. There is so little character development it is hard to develop a liking of any of the characters, even in the young man James played by Jacob Latimore. While the concept is intriguing and seemingly promising, we don’t have the character development to make it work. This is a part of the problem with the movie.

The concept of staying in the light and out of the darkness is something that is quite intriguing and had me having promise in the movie. It is a concept that is spoken about often in the Bible. The importance of staying in the light, yet at the same time walking close enough to the darkness to reach those in the dark. We see this portrayed throughout the movie, especially so in the climatic ending where we see it played out in a church. Here we see a thought provoking portrayal of the importance of staying close to the safety around us provided by light, while at the same time, caring enough for those around us to sacrificially help them escape the death of the darkness. There are things in the dark that takes life, more often than not; those things are dangerous to our survival. The concept of walking in light, being aware of the dangers around us is a theme worth telling. One of the things portrayed that was appreciated is the ability of children to be open to the spiritual realms around us. Often times their concepts of evil and good have not been diluted and in their innocence we can find the answers to salvation.

The Vanishing on 7th Street isn’t a horrible movie but it isn’t great either. I wanted more, expected more but unfortunately got less. I appreciated the spiritual symbolism from the usage of churches, the conflict with God, and the potential salvation provided through the church. I just wish I cared more for the characters and the plot and script were better developed. While there are good themes worthy of viewing, I found the DVD, although loaded with special features was more suited for a rental than a purchase. There is a nice look to the film, although it was a letdown. One of my favorite parts of the DVD features which were unusual was the trailers for upcoming films, including, Hobo With a Shotgun. If getting this in the bargain rental, you will be okay, otherwise, you may be disappointed, not just for the cost, but the time it takes to watch this movie.

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