Snowbeast vs. Vanishing on 7th Street: Two terrible movies, one less funny

Categories: Film

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Here's what Hayden Christensen did pretty much the whole time.
While the rest of America was at home watching the film establishment's glitzy annual circle jerk, where it elaborately congratulates itself on a year of acceptable filmmaking, my girlfriend and I were in an otherwise empty Chez Artist watching one of the worst indie films I expect to see this year -- and when I say "indie," I mean that only in the sense of "limited distribution," which, in this case, is clearly owing to that Vanishing on 7th Street is an awful movie. At least the 1977 made-for-TV crap-a-thon Snowbeast I saw on Saturday night had a certain nostalgic charm and a mostly coherent plot; the only thing Vanishing has going for it is, uh, there's a horse in it. So that's pretty cool.

Also, the screening of Snowbeast came with jokes, courtesy of Matt Vogl and Harrison Rains, the good gentlemen of Mile High Sci-Fi, sort of a live version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. And it's certain that Snowbeast was worthy of the treatment -- as either Vogl or Rains pointed out (you couldn't see them while they were doing the jokes), the movie is "about eighty percent filler," given to ridiculously long scenes involving people going around on skis or in snowmobiles -- one joke involved playing the minute-or-so long theme from CHiPs over a scene that was just some people snowmobiling from one place to another, which was so long they had to restart the theme several times. Another joke was that, because the filmmakers clearly had to shoot late in the afternoon (it's set and shot at Crested Butte, Colorado!) due to a shitty budget, there's never anyone else on the slopes during those scenes -- Vogl and Rains milked Crested Butte's seeming lack of popularity for laughs throughout.

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Best scene in Snowbeast.
It's also woodenly acted, incompetently directed, shoddily written and hilariously low-budget; one plot point is that the ski resort the movie's set at can't shut down (even though the snowbeast is running amok) because it's winter carnival is coming up, and that's when it attracts "the tourists all year." The scene of the winter carnival is literally filmed in what looks like a high-school gym and attended by what looks like some 25 to 30 people.

Vanishing doesn't even have a low budget (I'm sure it wasn't high, but the film boasts some decent special effects) and an obscure cast as an excuse -- Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo at least qualify as B-listers. Even its director, Brad Anderson (who at a better time in his career directed the terrifically creepy The Machinist) should know better. Here's the premise: On a random day, the power shuts off, everything goes dark and everyone just vanishes, leaving only a handful of people who happen to have lights on (candles, a flashlight, etc.) when the deal goes down left in existence; these people have to unwit the sinister, encroaching darkness to remain alive. So right off the bat, it's got a more intriguing premise than Snowbeast.

Within the first ten minutes, though, that intrigue is negated by the film's numerous flaws of internal logic and the most ham-fisted overacting I'd seen since, well, Snowbeast. For example, everything stops working, even cars, except a backup generator in the bar the characters are hunkered down in seems to work, and their flashlights work, and eventually they even get a car to work by jumping it on the generator that somehow works. (A simultaneous example of both bad logic and overacting: Thandie Newton (frantically): Why does this one work and not all the others?" Christensen (gratuitous product placement): "It's a Chevy?" And then, yelling: "I don't know, it just does!")

Thankfully, as mentioned, the movie theater was utterly empty, allowing my girlfriend and I to play Vogl and Rains ourselves and mock the movie with impunity. In both cases, at least there were jokes.

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Karina
Karina

This sad article is poorly written and a bigger joke than your conclusions, looks like you SHOULD have paid more attention to the movie. If you had,you would have gleaned that Hayden Christensen's character (Luke) was a selfishly motivated guy (he had a wife AND a girlfriend) who feels pretty much in control of his life until this event. As he journeys through the maze of darkness and light he sees that it would be a good thing to practice right actions and right conduct which, up to now, has certainly not been his strong point. His changed conduct does surface several times (wedding ring he puts back on, he tries to understand Thandie (Rosemary), and retrieving James at the church). He's been accustomed to taking on a leadership role in life and Thandi and John just aren't up to it. Thandie's character is a medical professional and a Mom who is torn by both. Because she had a past of "using" she gets into the philosophical side of what's happened (she states in the movie - she wanted to get and keep clean for the baby). She's stuck in panic mode throughout with the only lucid moments when she is directed by Luke to help in some way. John's character is a guy who never managed to get into life, people and relationships. He's injured, probably by the dark entities, and is stuck in reverse, desperately desiring to go back and at least try at life. He talks because it's the only avenue open to him, some of it is just blab, some questions, and some philosophizing. ALL of them are completely shut down by the events facing them. They talk together about guilt, the past, what to do, but only come up with "get out of the city". Their ratonal thinking processes are not working as they should however their innner voices are working. Without realizing it they all act on those inner voices. Luke by placing his wedding band back on thus denying his wilful conduct; by retreiving James at the church thus by showing himself he is cabaple of right actions. Thandie has seen (since having her baby) that she needs to stay clean, she too shows the capacity for right actions (by her tenderness towards James, her helping Luke with the car and her sudden lucid thought to think about where some matches are). John is disabled in any attempts to act upon his inner voices but comes to the reality that the "dark will get him" and that it might be the only way to get back to life.You totally missed the tenor of the film, the wonderful direction, acting, and special effects that only Brad Anderson could have done with such a small budget (5 mil). The film has that Machinist look and feel. If you don't care for "indie films" don't go see them and CERTAINLY don't try to "review" them, you just do not understand them.

Show and Tell Moderator
Show and Tell Moderator

Karina --

So if I'm getting you correctly, you're saying it doesn't matter that the film never explains its logistics because it's a character exploration? I'd disagree -- the total arbitrariness of everything that happens in the movie extends to the characters themselves, who (aside from Luke, who, okay, seems like he learns some VERY IMPORTANT LIFE LESSONS) remain pretty much static throughout.

Karina
Karina

The other characters are not static. IF you listened to Rosemary you would have heard that after she had her baby she saw then need to "stay clean". Her problem has been the anguish of being a really good medical professional who has a greater desire to be a good Mom. With this event she has been stuck in panic mode thus the melodramatics and questions she has about "if she CAN do right things" because she admitted she had done "bad things". She also is moved forward slightly, because of Luke's leadership and sometimes, because he is unwilling to "do the right thing" and go after John who is screaming in pain. She never really totally gets out of the "I want to be with my baby" idea but does practice the right thing here and there as they all do (evidently a new concept to them all). John's problem is that he has been injured, perhaps by the dark entities, but because of this is only able to express his thoughts vocally. Let's face it, John doesn't really KNOW about life much, nor what right actions or conduct to even take except - to try to get into that life he never allowed himself to be apart of. YES, it's a character study, that's how Brad Anderson perceived it and directed it. Logistics? This is not a film where everything is wrapped up in a neat little package that explains everything. It is a metaphor on death - that unsettling feeling of when will I die, why, what happens after death, we have NO answers all we can do as human beings is change our motives, our actions. The metaphor of dark and light is evil and good and trying to practice good actions and conduct is what a reasonable human being would desire. Let's also face it, the future belongs to the children and just the fact that a horse just happened to come and eat the apples that were flung on the road when Luke rammed the truck backwards, is an innocent a commentary as they are being children - expecting help from Mom and Dad.

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