The Vanishing On 7th Street

Brad Anderson the brilliant director behind The Machinist, Session 9, and Transsiberian has created a new realm of fantasy terror with The Vanishing On 7th Street, the only problem is how unevenly all the elements come together.

We've been avid fans of Anderson's work since his psychological breakthrough Session 9.  In his first film he revamps the twist ending by throwing a curve ball no one sees coming and makes it work because the film has an atmosphere and mood that aids in the development of the twist.  The same can be said with The Machinist.  Again he creates a wonderfully told story of a man's guilt that haunts him to the point of his own death.  With Christian Bale becoming a pure method actor and loosing too much weight, they created a world of madness that gave them the buzz they both deserved.  Then we come to Transsiberian, which was another fantastic acting spectacle.  These three films put forth the idea that Anderson is great at creating tense situations through manipulating his actors.

In Vanishing we have the great suspense, horror, atmosphere, mood, and style but what we don't have are actors that can carry the film past its look and feel.  It is almost as if two films were made here by two different filmmakers: One a soapy TV drama that adds dialogue in place of action and Two a tense horror film with great scares, effects, and one hell of a premise.  By looking at Anderson's other accomplishments over the last few years we see where the TVish writing comes into play with his work on Treme, Fringe, Rubicon, Boardwalk Empire, and Fear Itself.  Combining this with his previous horror work we gain further insight into the debacle that is The Vanishing On 7th Street.

In the age of the apocalypse film, Anderson's version of the end of humanity comes as a fresh idea.  There is not one zombie running amok, nor are there nuclear weapons, or a widespread disease, or the effects of global warming but there are shadows in the dark awaiting the light to go out.  In the beginning of the film we are introduced to our three main protagonists and where they are during the "blackout."  When this blackout occurs people are reduced to pile of clothes, and quickly you realize that only people with a light have survived.  Whether it be a flashlight, lighter, glowstick, or safely near a generator these holders of a light are the people who survive the initial wipe-out.  The plot jumps forward 72 hours and there seems to be only Luke (Hayden Christiansen) left.  He dons a necklace of light and is armed with flashlights and batteries.  He finds his way to a well lit bar with a jukebox filled with eerie 50's music.  The bar becomes our central location.  As Luke comments later, they are like moths to the flame.  We gain new characters here and they all pontificate on the cause of the darkness and what remains in the shadows: but unfortunately this is also where the film fails.

It is as though Anderson has spent all of his budget on the horror and left only enough to barely get the character scenes.  For a director that has made a career for himself as the perfect actor's director he throws it all away here by giving us dry scenes with stock dialogue in the face of the apocalypse.  The only thing that caught our interest was the retelling of the Roanoke myth which seems to be Anderson's basis for this film.  An entire society that disappears with no reason and all that is found is one single word: CROATOAN.  For a few of us here at Cineniche we recalled Stephen King's Storm Of The Century as our first encounter with Roanoke, and it has always been such a captivating tale.  So in the end read some books on Roanoke and fast forward through the dialogue and The Vanishing On 7th Street will be a perfect V Rating.

Rating: III/V (The idea alone is nearly worth a IV, but the acting ruins it)

Dear Mr. Gacey, You Really Don't Capture Well On Film

Dear Mr. Gacey

Svetozar Ristovski's adaptation of Jason Moss' superb book The Last Victim plays out like a made-for-TV movie.  Jason Moss was a young eager student who developed a theory to gain unfettered access to the mind of a serial killer by portraying himself as their perfect victim.  He wrote to Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Henry Lee Lucas, Richard Ramirez, and of course John Wayne Gacy.  The correspondences between himself and these monsters led Moss to his darkest place.  His desire to become an FBI profiler was eventually met with open arms and his research provided a deeper understanding of the psyche of these killers.  Unfortunately this film really doesn't dive into the complete story of Jason Moss, instead it keeps to a simple plot of being driven mad by his encounters with Gacey.  William Foresyth plays Gacey extremely well and the film delivers most of Gacey's brilliance in manipulation: which did cause the real Moss to break down little by little.  This breakdown is potrayed as a loss of reality and a push towards complete paranoia.  We were very let down by this film, had Ristovski actually followed the book he may have had an intense film that could have done Moss' life justice.  We hope that another, more capable filmmaker attempts this work and possibly shows his life leading up to his suicide back in 06-06-06.  That is a feat worth waiting for.

Rating: I/V

Let Me In: A Complete Waste Of Time?

Instead of a lengthy comparison between Let The Right One In and Matt Reeves remake, we'll just stick with the basics.  Yes, this is an inferior remake of a foreign film.  Yes, Reeves takes out the subtlety and ambiguity that made the original such a powerful and beautiful work of art, and instead replaces these elements with bouts of action and decent make-up effects.  We would like to say that there is no merit to Let Me In, but that may be too harsh so lets look at the facts.  The in-medias-res beginning we thought would take this film into the realm of the book, but instead it is needlessly placed to spruce up the twenty minute test (for non-screenwriters out there this is the captivating twenty pages/minutes that will ultimately capture your viewer and if this fails then the rest will as well).  Our new Hakan is now played by the brilliant Richard Jenkins and is miscredited on IMDB as "The Father," this may shed some light on how exactly Reeves ruins entire storylines in this adaptation.  We begin with "The father," being rushed off to the hospital suffering severe burns to his face and cannot be identified.  Upon questioning by the police in connection to a series of murders, he has no answer.  Instead he writes: "I'm sorry Abbey," and in the next scene plunges to his death from his hospital window.  We were excited, because in Lindquist's version Hakan then is taken into the morgue where he wakes up and becomes a terrible threat to Oskar and Eli.  Instead the film then begins as the original did.

In no way does Reeves even attempt to add any of the layers that are offered in the book.  Instead it seems as though he keeps only to the original film for his source material.  This is unfortunate because if he wanted to create an amped up version of Let The Right One In all he would have had to do is read the book.  Alas, what he does change are the relationships and this is where a deep-seated anger develops withing lovers of the original work.  Hakan has been stripped of his child molester status and transformed into only a caretaker, Eli is now Abbey a female vampire not a castrated male vampire, Oskar now Owen is not struggling with his developing homosexuality as learned from his alcoholic father, and if there was any question as to whether or not Oskar would become like Hakan or become a vampire himself it is answered clearly in a set of pictures taken in a photo booth.  We cannot understand how Let Me In has made its way into the top ten horror films of 2010.  We guess there are entertaining elements to this version.  Richard Jenkins is great, which is no surprise there, and when he wears his kill suit it's genuinely scary.  We asked ourselves why he only gave himself one eyehole for his trashbag face, but figured it was just to be more menacing.  Another great element is Chloe Moretz from Kick-Ass, she's an amazing young actress.  If given better writing she could have been a perfect androgenous Eli. 

All in all without its background/mythology and had Reeves been the first one to tell this story, and if he had made it for intelligent audiences, or never concerned himself with action scenes, or hadn't directed Cloverfield before embarking on a subtle story, we may have granted it a place among the landmarks of horror.  As it is, it infects the strong feelings you have for the original.  We just hope that with the revival of Hammer Films that it doesn't mean a long string of haphazard remakes and sequels.

Rating: II/V

Here's the superior version: