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REVIEW – Vanishing on 7th Street (2010)

October 3, 2011

THE ZONE have my review of Brad Anderson’s urban horror film Vanishing on 7th Street.

I say “urban” as the film takes place in the rapidly depopulating city of Detroit but it strikes me that a more accurate description of the film might be something like ‘marshy’. Vanishing on 7th Street is about a group of people struggling to survive in the ruins of a city plunged into darkness by a powercut. What makes their existence something of a struggle is the fact that, out in the darkness, people keep disappearing meaning that, in order to stay alive, you have to keep the lights on. Unfortunately, with the main power out, the survivors are forced to rely upon mysteriously dwindling supplies of fuel and batteries.  These situation is made even worse by the tendency of the survivors to get lost in their own memories and wander off into the darkness. As you can probably tell, this is a film that is full of interesting thematic hooks but Anderson somehow manages to avoid getting caught on any of them resulting in a film that is neither scary nor dramatic and neither tense nor thought-provoking.  Vanishing on 7th Street is a marsh of ideas and Anderson made the terrible mistake of stepping off the path…

Vanishing On 7th Street could have been a brilliant horror film, an intelligent allegory for urban collapse or a thoughtful character study, but its refusal to pick a dramatic register and stick with it means that the resulting film is nothing but a series of pretty but ultimately pointless exercises in low-budget atmospheric cinematography. This is a brilliant idea waiting for a competently written script.

Whatever happened to the man who directed such brilliantly off-beat psychological thrillers as Session 9 (2001) and The Machinist (2004)? Come home Brad Anderson!  All is forgiven!

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