Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Vanishing on 7th Street (2010)

Hayden Christensen is an actually decent actor? Say it isn't so! All that horrible, cringe-inducing, vomit-spew   that he called an acting performance from the Star Wars prequels was just George Lucas being a terrible director? Really? I would have never expected that. I would have never expected that furrowed-brow man-child could actually give a decent performance. But this movie proves it! See, it was Star Wars being horrible that made him look bad, not him being an awful actor!

Well, I partially find that true. I mean, I'm not going to go nuts here and say he's brilliant or anything. He does a solid job, but the acting here is pretty inconsistent anyway. He's the second best actor in the movie though, and does a really good job at conveying actual emotions rather than just facial movements and noises coming out of his mouth. He does a good job in this movie, but his performance is in no way stellar. I've heard a lot of people go and defend him to death about his performances in the two Star Wars films being very different from his other, better, performances in other, better, films. While I'll say that his acting here is not bad, it never blows me away. Honestly, none of the performances here are very good exactly, although I will say that John Leguizamo does a pretty good job in general. The others kind of fade into the background of the plot, really never showing off their quality of acting, and certainly ever impressing me in any way.

The whole movie is based on an interesting premise that I first "saw" executed in the Goosebumps book by R. L. Stine called Be Careful What You Wish For... where the main character wishes to be left alone or something to that effect and she finds herself all alone with nobody left in the entire world. Anyway, that's the basic idea here: People start disappearing from the world due to some kind of sentient darkness and only a few are left in the end. Roanoke Island is talked about as a precursor to this great, worldwide disappearance of people, and the word "Croatoan" (whatever that is meant to mean) seems to be used as an arc word in the film. The darkness being sentient and all-consuming is a pretty awesome idea. It is both well-executed and well-realized. It works with the creepy, almost horrific, tone that the movie tries to set, and it really makes you feel a little paranoid in general. The fact that darkness can be anywhere and can even blot out the sun... Whew... that's heavy stuff.

So, while I thought the premise of the movie was really interesting, in the same way I found Absentia's premise to be interesting, I did find some of it lacking nevertheless. The characters are never really a central piece of the movie despite them being the central piece of the movie. And the performances are sometimes not great... although none of the movie ever sinks as low as Absentia does. It works better in every way than that film. It also is somewhat reminiscent of a movie like 30 Days of Night, even if there are a lot of big differences between the films. The theme of darkness versus light is very prevalent in both, and is used very well is both. In general I really did enjoy Vanishing on 7th Street as both a horror movie, and a post-apocalyptic film. It finally reminded me of The Mist, which is never an insult. And it also had some bits of elements from a zombie horror film or something like that,which I thought was mightily effective. It had a creepiness that worked pretty well with darkness being the enemy and no consistent way of keeping a light. Hell, it's one of those movies that I think would work really well as a video game. It kind of operates with some video game logic, especially with the choice of which lights stay on and which flip off. This movie reminds me of Alan Wake to a point, but is so much less annoying than Alan Wake ever felt. Fighting against darkness as a theme is really interesting in both, but kind of silly as well. I actually thought the idea was better in Alan Wake than this film, but the execution is so much better here that I really do prefer this film to that game.

The characters in the film are very underdeveloped. None of them truly matter to the narrative anyway. The acting is perfectly fine, but that doesn't really matter much for a film like this. The visuals are really good in general though, so much so that I have to admit that the visuals are really my favorite part of the movie. Brad Anderson directed this movie, and I generally like his style of direction. Session 9 still stands as one of my favorite psychological horror films, and The Machinist is also really good, with both having great performances, but both also benefiting from amazing set-pieces. Session 9 has Danvers, one of the great mental asylums of all time, an incredibly effective setting for a horror flick, and The Machinist has Christian Bale putting in one of his best performances of all time. This movie is not as good as either of those other films since it lacks both great acting and a great setting, but it's still pretty decent. I mean, if the premise sounds interesting, you should check it out.

My only big problem is the ending. I didn't like the ending at all. It came on too quickly, without really any foreshadowing. I don't like quick deaths which makes entire character arcs meaningless. That's kind of a spoiler, but I'm not giving any names. The ending here really does make most of the rest of the movie mean very little, and that was disappointing considering I really was enjoying the movie. There is a section of the film that is very psychological... Hell, maybe large portions of it are psychological... and they were quite well despite being kind of predictable. Well done though, just not my favorite stuff I've ever seen. The Adam and Eve styled ending made me roll my eyes and never want to stop rolling them... That was rough on every single one of my senses. I wouldn't have hurled at that ending, but it was something I mentally felt like throwing up to. So everything about the ending was kind of dumb. But in general the movie is solid and works well. So, I do recommend it for what it's worth for the visuals alone. It is a creepy movie and works fairly effectively at being kind of scary. If you're alone at night, this film would be the perfect one to creep you out.

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