Thursday, June 09, 2011

Vanishing on 7th Street

I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy the concept of a contained thriller far more than the finished product. I might find the occasional gem like Splinter or [REC], but that's after sifting through a tons and tons of forgettable films. I’m always getting snookered by some cool-sounding premise, seemingly unable to learn my lesson.

Meet my latest regret, Vanishing on 7th Street. A group of strangers struggle for survival after an inexplicable darkness begins to prey on the living. This sounds cool!!! Sure, there were some obvious red flags, namely Thandie Newton and Hayden Christensen. I’m not a huge fan of their work, but the concept beckoned me like a ship sailing towards the beautiful maiden singing on jagged rocks.

The first twenty minutes are extremely effective at building tension. It paints a vivid picture of a desolate city littered with abandoned cars and empty clothing — the darkness only has a taste for human flesh. It’s somewhat reminiscent of 28 Days Later and (probably a little Left Behind). There’s a fantastic scene where a bewildered Rosemary (Newton) wanders into an Operating Room. But then... the story just kind of settles into familiar and uninspired territory.

Nothing of interest happens after that. Now I don’t mean that characters sit around and stare at the camera for the rest of the film, because they don’t. The usual stuff: someone’s hurt, they have to find X, etc. But does the film make an attempt to address some nagging questions like: WHY IS THIS HAPPENING!? WHAT DOES IT MEAN!? Aside from a few references to the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island and the mystery of CROATOAN, nope. And that can be fine, as long as we have interesting characters. Not the case here. Barely fleshed out. Weak arcs. Which is odd, because based on the audio commentary with Director Brad Anderson, he wanted to focus on the characters and not the mystery. Something about how each chooses to deal with death... I guess. The performances are fine and the effects solid. Just wasn’t for me. Your mileage may vary.

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