Title: Vanishing on 7th Street
Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: Hayden Christensen (Jumper, The Cold), Thandie Newton (2012, For Colored Girls) and John Leguizamo (Ice Age: Continental Drift)
Ambiguity and being able to continuously leave viewers guessing about the cause of disasters may not sound appealing to all movie audiences, but if done effectively, is a valuable way to keep thriller fans interested in a storyline. The new Herrick Entertainment post-apocalyptic thriller ‘Vanishing On 7th Street,’ starring Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo, achieves director Brad Anderson’s goal of leaving its audience guessing if the end of the world has really come. Viewers will also be entertained as they are left wondering what the explanation for the world’s recent downfall is.
‘Vanishing On 7th Street’ poses an interesting alternative to the classic apocalyptic thriller sub-genre. Instead of focusing on aliens or zombies, which have saturated the horror market in recent years, the movie instead preys on many people’s primal fears: the dark. An unexplained blackout overtakes the entire city of Detroit, and as the sun rises the next day, only a handful of survivors remain. Everyone else has vanished, leaving behind only their clothing as proof they ever existed.
Several strangers, including Luke (played by Christensen), a television reporter; Rosemary (portrayed by Newton), a physical therapist; Paul (played by Leguizamo), a movie theater projectionist; and 12-year-old James (portrayed by newcomer Jacob Latimore) survive the first several days of the blackout. They cross paths with each other at Sonny’s bar on 7th Street. The quartet have come to realize that in order to evade death and stay safe from the shadows that plague the darkness is to stay in the light. With the sun rising later and setting earlier every day, Sonny’s, with the help of its back-up generator, is the only safe haven throughout the entire city.
With ‘Vanishing On 7th Street,’ screenwriter Andrew Jaswinski achieved his goal of creating a chilling post-apocalyptic film in a deserted city. He has said that he’s always wanted to create a horror movie set in a bar without having to use a monster to create a sinister presence. “Essentially, the idea of nonexistence itself has become the entity,” Jaswinski added, which comes across quite effectively.
While the idea of using shadows and the unkown to scare its audience may turn some horror fans away, the absence of monsters allows viewers to instead focus on the characters and their desire to live. Forced to face their fears of giving up what’s always been familiar to them, and abandoning hope of finding their loved ones, including Luke’s estranged wife, Rosemary’s infant son and James’ mother, the audience will be left to question what they would do if they lost their entire way of life overnight.
Even though ‘Vanishing On 7th Street’ only has four main actors, who are stuck in Sonny’s bar for a majority of the plot, Anderson was able to keep the film from becoming claustrophobic. He proved that not all post-apocalyptic thrillers need non-stop action to keep the momentum going; viewers will feel as though they’re experiencing the darkness for themselves as the characters get to know each other and try to find a way to survive. Anderson also reinforced this theory by pointing to the fact that while the movie has dark thriller undertones, it’s also about how people behave and how they deal with unusual circumstances.
Anderson made another right decision in hiring Christensen for Luke, the group’s leader and hero. While the script isn’t jammed packed with action, stunts or even a lot of dialogue, the actor gets Anderson’s point across that he’s a normal, relatable, every-day guy who just wants to protect those he cares about.
With such a small cast and the focus of the movie on the new, uncomplicated relationships between Luke and the other survivors, viewers will understand what the characters are feeling. Newton perfectly summed up Anderson’s understanding of people and how they behave by saying “He approaches the work as if he’s doing field research or ethnography. He’s fascinated by the dynamic between the characters.”
‘Vanishing On 7th Street’ may initially draw in audiences for its name recognition with Christensen, Newton and Leguizamo. But its unique spin on one of people’s most primal fears, the dark and what lurks in it, will keep its audience intrigued in its storyline, despite the absence of continuous action and big stunts. Anderson proves with this film that he truly understands how to capture cultural and human behavior in times of crisis.
Written by: Karen Benardello