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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Vanishing on Seventh Street

May 14th, 2011

Vanishing on Seventh Street - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Vanishing on Seventh Street has a cast with higher name recognition than most limited releases have, but it only managed mixed reviews before stumbling at the box office. Is it better than the box office numbers would suggest? Is it worth checking out? Or are there just too many flaws?

The Movie

The film starts with the introduction of one of the main characters, Paul, who works in a theater as a projectionist. His job involves spending time in a dark room, and he needs his hands free, so he has a light on his hat. Suddenly the power goes out, but instead of hearing patrons complain, there's silence. And when he goes to explore, there's no one there. When the back-up power comes back on, all that's left is clothing. The only one left in the mall is a security guard, who was doing his rounds by flashlight. But when Paul's light flickers, the guard disappears.

Next we meet Rosemary, a physical therapist in a hospital. She sees empty hallways, a nursery with no babies in it, and then a man who was in the middle of open heart surgery. He was protected by the lights, which makes sense that the lights would be on a different power source that the main hospital. Very little would suck more than being in the middle of open heart surgery only to have the lights go out. But why was he protected and the doctors and nurses in the same room taken? Then when there's another blackout, he's gone, but Rosemary is protected by her pen light.

Next we see Luke Ryder wake up next to some burning candles. It's daytime but he quickly notices the power is out. Not even his cell phone is working. It takes him a while to notice that no one else is in the building. And when he gets outside, there's no one there at all, just piles of clothing.

Throughout these introductions, we see a few shadows moving and strange sounds. Something we see more of when we flash 72 hours into the future. Luke has made his way to a bar where the lights are on and a jukebox is playing, but for a while it looks like no one else is there. That is until he runs into James Leary, the son of the bartender. He's waiting for his mother to return, but we get the feeling she won't be. Shortly afterward, Rosemary comes running into the bar looking for her missing baby. The last three days have been hard on her. Likewise, Paul has had it rough, as we see him on the street struggling to get up after suffering a head wound. He does make it to a bus stop where an overhead light keeps him safe long enough to be rescued by Luke.

Once all four of them are in the bar together, they start discussing what is happening, why, and how to protect themselves. Meanwhile, the audience waits for these four to be picked off one-by-one.

This film has an interesting premise, but the execution is flawed in nearly every way. The foreshadowing is less than subtle. Paul is reading a book with chapters on Dark Matter and on the Lost Colony of Roanoke and the movies being shown in the theater are called Dark Invasion and Dead Town Black. Secondly, the rules regarding the shadows are not set. Suspension of disbelief is necessary in any film like this and we as an audience are willing to accept a certain amount in order to move the plot forward. However, the more inconsistencies there are, the harder that becomes. Rosemary was saved because she was lighting a cigarette at the time. However, we see a security guard taken despite him having a flashlight on him. How come the doctors disappear, but the patient is left behind? There was enough light to illuminate the whole room. How come some batteries are drained, but others are not?

The philosophical discussions are also not as interesting as they should be. The talk of The Rapture might be somewhat timely. (Have you heard? Apparently May 21st is the Rapture.) But the theories presented are more muddled than anything else. That said, I appreciate the effort to add an intellectual touch to horror films. Speaking of horror, there are not a lot of scares in the movie. Sure, there are some moody elements and I did like the moving shadows more than some critics, but it's not enough on this front either.

In short, the film mostly wastes its promising ideas and the end result is simply not satisfying.

The Extras

The DVD has plenty of extras, starting with an audio commentary track with Brad Anderson. If you are looking for a clear explanation for what happened in the movie, this track won't help. There are several alternate endings, but they are just the same ending with scenes in slightly different order. There's a seven-minute making of featurette and a shorter four-minute featurette on the mood, which is the best part of the movie. There us a short two-minute montage of behind-the-scenes clips, but they are presented without context. The longest extra is the interview featurette with Brad Anderson and Jacob Latimore, filmed separately. Finally, there's a HDNet promo piece on the show.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but I can tell you it costs 30% more than the DVD, which is right on the border between worth it and not. It depends on how well it shines on High Definition.

The Verdict

Vanishing on Seventh Street presents some interesting ideas plus a good cast but the end result is rather uninspired. It's not a bad movie, but there are enough flaws to limit its value to a rental. If you are interested in buying, neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray are substantially better deals.

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