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Blu-ray Review: ‘Vanishing On 7th Street’

Dear everyone that hates Vanishing On 7th Street,

We’ve seen eye to eye (… well, probably) on many things in the past – we gleefully grimaced at zombies being killed to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in Shaun Of The Dead, got extremely creeped out by May, and collectively face palmed during the entirety of Platinum Dunes’ Nightmare On Elm Street remake – but you seem to have a strong distaste for Brad Anderson’s latest film. Actually, that’s not right. Let me rephrase that: you vehemently despise this flick. And I, for one, am sort of baffled.Now, Vanishing definitely has some flaws, so I’m right there with you on a few things. For starters, it’s not just you: Hayden Christensen is a terrible actor. After all, this is a guy who managed to make a speech about sand written by George Lucas seem EVEN WORSE than it already was (and it’s really, really awful to begin with). Even though he’s supposed to be playing a survivor who ‘s holding together a group of stranded individuals after an unexpected and bizarre occurrence, Christensen once again proves that he can’t shake the cold, misanthropic mindset that his character from Life As A House cruised through life with.

Vanishing is also a little cheap looking. In a lot of genre films, characters are afraid of the dark because of what lurks in it but in this one, darkness is the entity that they’re trying to escape. The CGI used to create the shadows that creep towards the light and devour it whole comes off as more than a little silly sometimes, but this is the same sort of dilemma that plagues all high concept ideas that are made into low-budget affairs. Given the budget and scheduling conditions of the film, I think Anderson did a fine job of conveying the imagery within Anthony Jaswinski’s script.

Because, really, it’s the idea of what’s going on and not the exposition or how it looks that’s at the core of Vanishing’s story. And I think that’s where we kind of part ways.

See, 90% of you hate this movie because there’s no absolutely no explanation and yet, you love films that don’t explain character motivations because it makes them creepier. I think the biggest reason why it does work is because like the characters in the film, you’re left completely in the dark. Early on in the film, Paul (John Leguizamo) is flipping through a book in a theatre projection booth, stopping at the chapters about dark matter and Roanoke Island, two mysteries that have yet to be fully explained. Sure, there’s lots of information out there about them, but not a definitive explanation for either.

Vanishing is meant to evoke these unexplained mysteries by thrusting you in the middle of the blackout catastrophe with nothing to go on except for a few subtle hints. Maybe it’s dark matter, which when mixed with the atmosphere and gravitational pull on Earth can communicate and take on the form of everything it envelopes; after all, it takes of 90% of the universe and, well, we still don’t quite understand what lurks in the far reaches of space. Maybe that’s what came and took all the settlers from Roanoke in the middle of the night centuries ago.

But whatever the reason, as a viewer you’re left helpless like the band of survivors, with little understanding of what’s happening or what is going to happen. The unknown is a terrifying thing and, to be perfectly frank, no matter what explanation Anderson and Jaswinski would’ve given you, you would’ve been unsatisfied.

Vanishing On 7th Street reminds me of Picnic At Hanging Rock in that it presents characters that are blindsided with an unexplainable event and then spends the rest of the film dealing with the aftermath – emotional attachment to people no longer there, trying to push forward with their lives, etc. The mystery is never explained and you’re left to theorize, which is half the fun. So, I implore you, use your imagination a little and give it another shot.

Sincerely,

David Harley

P.S.

Magnolia’s 1080p AVC encode is faithful to its source, which was significantly altered after principal photography. Anderson shot the film with the Red One camera, which does very poorly on dark sets and locations– which is kind of THE WHOLE MOVIE – so everything was over lit to compensate for the digital setup and then tweaked during post. The film is oppressively dark and it’s hard to differentiate between the picture modified in post and the high-def presentation on the disc, but I think there is enough variance in the blacks and grays to not offend any Blu-ray aficionados. The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio Track, on the other hand, is incredible, picking up on all the whispers and sound effects that help create the film’s mood without pumping up the score loud enough to ruin it.

P.P.S.

Special Features

Commentary – Director Brad Anderson spends most of the commentary repeating that he doesn’t have an explanation for the scenario he presents, and though that really isn’t the point of the film, those looking for answers will feel kind of cheated by this track. He does discuss his process and approach to making low-budget horror, so if you’re looking to grab the reigns of your own film anytime soon, it’s worth a listen. Anderson is definitely a director that can make a creepy flick for little to no money.

Alternate Endings (8:21) – There’s three alternate endings here, though none of them really differ that much from the theatrical finale – some scenes are rearranged, that’s about it. It’s still the same outcome, and boy does that final stroll on the horse remind me of The Walking Dead. Squint real hard and you can see some cars driving by in the background.

Revealing The Vanishing On 7th Street (7:04) – Just a basic EPK where everyone waxes rhapsodic about one another while clips are spliced in between each floating head segment. Aside from Hayden Christensen, all the actors are interviewed along with the writer, director and producers.

Creating The Mood On 7th Street (4:23) – Like the featurette before it, it’s basically a bunch of people patting each other on the back, but it’s a little more focused on the atmosphere and unexplainable circumstances of the film this time around.

Behind The Scenes Montage (2:13) – Exactly what the name suggests, without any sort of narration.

Interviews (30:23) – A pair of junket interviews (one on the lengthy side) with Anderson and actor Jacob Latimore. Latimore seems really happy talking about his experiences on Vanishing, but Anderson seems really irritated, staring at the ground and sighing during most of his chat.

HDNet: A Look at Vanishing on 7th Street (4:21) – Like everything else on this disc, it’s a bunch of fluff and clips.

Film: 3/5
Blu-Ray: 2/5

Source: B-D