One of the most anticipated films at this year’s TIFF “Midnight Madness” was Brad Anderson’s (Session 9, The Machinist) Vanishing on 7th Street, a film that carried a not-so-original theme, but with the directorial talents of Anderson could have been something visually unique. Quivering with too much CGI, a bizarrely staged opening sequence, and a lackluster ending, Vanishing ends up being “just OK”, but that’s good enough for me.
The film opens with John Leguizamo as a projectionist at a local AMC theater chain. Anderson takes the audience into the cinema where AMC logos riddle every aspect of the film immediately removing them from the experience. It almost comes off like a commercial or student film, until ultimately “the event” happens taking the large-scale indie out into the world.
After a (seemingly) worldwide power outage, people who by “chance” were using a light source see the resurgence of power only to find themselves in complete desolateness. All that remains are piles of clothing littered through malls, streets and apartments. Instead of giving the audience the “immediately after” portion of the story, Anderson projects to a few days later where the sun is rising and setting an accelerated and alarming rate. Hayden Christensen is the unlikable protagonist looking to escape the city (and go where?). He meets up with a woman, a child and Mr. Lequizamo, who band together in a bar, powered by a gas generator, to wait out what they hope is just an event “passing by.”
In their fight to survive, they gather batteries, flashlights and other sources of light, all of which don’t like to work all too well. They constantly flicker, go out, or just fail to work. One of the characters even uses glow lights that kids play with, constantly putting them around everyone’s neck – only they’re never actually used (go figure).
The movie has epic gaps of logic and asks the audience to have an astronomical suspension of disbelief. The characters act like morons and make illogical situations that will have you slapping your forehead in disbelief.
The CGI, while at times is dismissible, can be distracting – although I’m not exactly sure how you direct a horde of menacing shadows without the technology. The way they move and react to the situation at hand can be quite cool, although Anderson fails to introduce any “rules” for these so-called shadow-ghosts. For example, half of the movie the shadows are reeling in terror from light, only when a character is running in fear the shadows are closing in and engulfing the light near them. Which is it?
Many will have a problem with the third act that concludes with a strongly ambiguous finale. Even as silly as Vanishing on 7th Street plays, it’s kind of a fun movie that’s carries some light religious sub context, and never takes itself all too seriously. As long as the audience doesn’t take it seriously either, Anderson’s film is simple, cliché fun.