Wednesday 23 May 2012


Can the director of The Machinist and the much maligned star of two not fantastically regarded Star Wars prequels come together for an interesting sci-fi?

Set in the aftermath of an unforeseen armageddon, a group of survivors try to band together to stay out of the light and escape the eternal sunset which is trying to kill them. Taking refuge in an abandoned and dimly lit bar running on a temperamental back up generator, it's only a matter of time before they'll have to face what's waiting for them outside in the shadows.

The problem that this film faces is what I'm going to call 'the Hayden Christensen Dilemma'. He's not a terrible actor (anyone who's seen Shattered Glass will know he's capable of dramatic range) but has been unquestionably bad in things, most notable Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones. Attaching yourself to what could be the biggest film franchise of all time most certainly boosts your profile and opens a few doors, but if the fanboys take a dislike to you, it's going to follow you around for the best part of your whole career.

Vanishing suffers from this problem somewhat. With Christensen in the lead role the film comes with some baggage, and the weighty expectations that it's going to be a failure. It's not helped by his character Luke being a bit of a bastard, in an early scene showing him watching a man be devoured by the shadows when he could have easily helped him. Luke is looking out for number one, something that doesn't change much when he encounters more survivors who are willing to help him.

For a film that shows a plane falling out of the sky in its early moments, there's a surprising lack of action. As you'd expect from the director of The Machinist,  the film looks pretty stylish. Whilst in no means a special effects bonanza, the shots of the creeping shadows in the already dark and brooding atmosphere are very effective. As any horror aficionado will tell you, it's what you don't see that counts, and there's plenty of tense moments as they cling onto whatever light they can find. Bringing to mind the malevolent ghouls in Ghost that come to take the villainous Willie Lopez to his final resting place, the silhouetted tendrills reaching out for our heroes work well.

In what is essentially The Omega Man re-imagined (the film
 also shares certain broad thematic similarities to Skyline, except in reverse) with a bit of Rio Bravo thrown in for good measure, it would be an easier film to admire without the stars attached. As well as Christensen, John Leguizamo and Thandie Newton have prominent roles as jitterish fellow survivors wanting to know what's happened and why they are the ones left behind. None of them put in bad performances, but the film collapses slightly under the weight of expectations they bring; or more accurately, the curse of the lower level movie star.

If director Anderson were to keep the premise and his direction, but film it again with a no name cast, this film would have been held in much higher regard. Maybe that's where the problem lies. This has cult sci-fi written all over it, but with the relative star power it comes with, it's doomed to be thought of as an also ran against the genre big boys. Still, on the home video market, this has the potential to gain a following.

Despite leaving you with a lack of explanations, it's still an enjoyable and surprisingly unique sci-fi thriller, built upon a killer premise. For fans of cult sci-fi horrors, Vanishing On 7th Street is definitely worth giving a shot.


Special Features:
+ Trailer 
+ On Set Interviews

1 comment:

  1. Good point about noteable actors handling low-bud cult. SAW worked cause the actors were low-key and serviceable. There's a tinge of this in Vanishing, but you definately have reservations when Christiansan shows up. Althought he was okay here.