Sometimes when a horror movie never shows us what we’re supposed to be afraid of I, being a man, am totally deflated due to the lack of visual stimulation. But once in a while, a movie will totally unnerve me and get under my skin simply using the power of suggestion, such as what Richard Gere experiences in The Mothman Prophecies and Laura Linney experiences in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. And then there are movies like Shadow People and Vanishing on 7th Street.
SHADOW PEOPLE (2013)
Shadow People stars dearly departed Milton of The Walking Dead (who I’m so sure was gay for the Governor). He plays a radio personality who begins getting very creepy calls from a man babbling about the “shadow people” who are coming to get him. Skeptical and dismissive at first, Milton is eventually sucked into the legend of people who are believed to have died at night at the hands of the shadow people.
You never see any shadow people in this film. Shadows are the most you get. I’m not sure if this movie will chill everyone to the bone or only those who have ever experienced sleep paralysis. It happened to me twice in the late 80s/early 90s and it’s terrifying. So glad that there was no movie back then suggesting it was the fricking shadow people holding you down and coming for you during these “attacks.”
There are several very intense, suspenseful scenes of people falling victim to the shadow people, but the movie actually plays out more like a documentary about SUNDS…Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome.
While the movie may freak you out more if you’ve actually experienced sleep paralysis, it totally plays up the power of suggestion angle, offering subliminal messaging throughout as well as a placebo “punch line” intended to get you looking over your shoulder and thinking twice before closing your eyes to drift off to sleep at night.
VANISHING ON 7TH STREET (2010)
\Vanishing on 7th Street is like Darkness Falls without the tooth fairy. But it’s much darker in tone (so-to-speak). What makes it work is the claustrophobic feel, these ghostly sounds that come out of the dark, and the focus on a very small group of people. Of course, that’s mostly because after an initial blackout, everyone else is just gone, leaving just their clothes behind.
We’re left with John Leguizamo, who has been injured, Anakin Skywalker as a brooding loner (imagine that), a young boy looking for his mother, and a woman looking for her baby. The foursome tries desperately to keep generators running so they can stay in light…because there’s something in the dark! Whatever is in there, it’s making the days shorter and nights longer, has the ability to kill light sources, and is also able to fuck with your mind to attract you to the dark!
Vanishing on 7th Street relies completely on atmosphere, because we never see what’s in the dark…and what is in the dark is kind of up for interpretation. Even the characters give their perspectives, from God punishing us (flashes of The Mist) to alien abduction. It all manages to make the movie uber creepy. There’s even a “light chasing” sequence that is like something right out of Session 9.
If you’re going to make a movie in which we never actually see anything, you really have to mess with our minds to create a sense of dread concerning the unknown or inexplicable, and both of these flicks pull it off…way better than, oh…you know…The Blair Witch Project.