Sunday, January 27, 2013

Horror Film Review

Vanishing on 7th Street (2010):  This movie pissed me off.  I just wanted to get that out of the way at the outset.  Now...this is another end of the world flick but the exact opposite of Hell (see previous review).  Loitering about in the light will get you killed in that film whereas here, loitering in the dark will get you quite dead.  Well, maybe dead.  Maybe not.  That's why I'm pissed.  Let me try to explain.

The power goes out for less than a minute and when it returns, most humans are just simply gone.  Wherever someone was standing, sitting, or lying down there is now a heap of clothes and jewelry.  The handful of folks who didn't go poof were near an independent light source at the time.  TV reporter Luke (Hayden Christensen) was sleeping next to lit candles, film projectionist Paul (John Leguizamo) was wearing a miner's headlight, physical therapist Rosemary (Thandie Newton) was lighting up a smoke, and pre-teen James (Jacob Latimore) was in the backup generator-powered bar where his mom bartends.  After some backstories and narrow escapes, these four end up together at the bar where they eventually decide to make a break for Chicago (at his TV studio, Luke saw a broadcast from a survivor there).  The problem?  Darkness is now alive with amorphous shadows that slither and creep and wait for you to let your guard down.  Oh, one other wrinkle...batteries drain super fast and, inexplicably, the sun now shines for mere hours a day.  Still, they give it a go with decidedly mixed results.  OK...let the bitching begin.

There are so many plot holes and lapses of logic I wanted to scream.  Look...they're in Detroit.  Millions of people live in Detroit, right?  We're to believe less than a half dozen of them were near a battery-powered light source or flame when the blackout happened.  Not possible.  The bar has a backup generator yet the heaps of clothing indicate all patrons were taken by the darkness.  How is it that James survived when no one else did?  Speaking of the's in the basement and is not exhausted to the outside and has been running for days.  Anyone in that bar would be asphyxiated in a matter of minutes.  And the most maddening, most exasperating issue I have with this film is fire.  Throughout the whole damn movie we're supposed to be all tense and anxious as the bar's lights flicker and fade and then brighten again as the generator experiences its death throes.  These survivors...sorry, morons...are in a building chock full of wooden furniture and gas cans with actual gasoline in them.  Instead of creating torches and placing them protectively around the bar, they all sit around staring at the dimming light fixtures with growing dread.  I have no sympathy for these people.  There's also hundreds of bottles of booze, some strong enough to be ready-made Molotov cocktails.  Toward the end, when trapped outside, Luke finally grows a brain and makes a torch.  But, and here's my second biggest bitch, why didn't they simply set fire to the cars or the abandoned buildings?  Why didn't they scrounge up all solar-powered and Faraday-powered flashlights, not to mention lanterns that burn oil?  Grrr....  So frustrating to watch.

Idiocy aside, the other major problem with this film is the darkness itself.  In Hell, it's not explained why the sun goes crazy and starts cranking out the heat and UV rays, but we don't really need to know.  Here, by not understanding what happens to the vanished, whether they're dead, alive, or otherwise, we aren't as invested emotionally as we could be (and should be).  What exactly is the darkness?  Dunno?  What's living in the darkness?  Dunno.  Where did it come from?  Dunno.  How can the sun be affected by it?  Dunno.  If the sun's affected and electricity is affected, why isn't fire affected?  Dunno.  And so on, and so forth.  I really, really wanted to like this movie and it had promise.  Unfortunately, it got lost in the dark.


Acting:  Leguizamo is the best of the lot.  Too bad he's lying on a pool table muttering for most of the film.  Nobody's performance is terrible. 
Story:  Excellent idea.  The script, however, is unbelievably ridiculous.
Direction:  Eh.  Whether it's decent or not is immaterial for reasons previously explained.
Production Values:  Made for $10 million, it's a real Hollywood movie and so looks good, slick even. 
Gore/FX:  No blood.  Lots of CGI shadows and one nose-diving jumbo jet, but nothing terribly impressive.
Scares:  Yes, surprisingly.  One's very effective.
Ending:  Two kids on a horse.  I'd explain but...why?
Verdict:  Should you see Vanishing on 7th Street?  If you have the ability to switch off that portion of your brain that, you know, thinks, then you might be able to tolerate it.  Otherwise, you'll just want to throw weighty objects at your television.

Rating:  1 out of 5


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