“Vanishing on 7th Street,” directed by Brad Anderson, fits squarely into the lightweight B-movie category. But as long as you don’t take it too seriously, it’s a just-fine diversion.
The movie begins with a mass blackout. The power goes off only briefly, but when the lights come back on, everyone has disappeared, literally, right out of their clothes. Well, not everyone. A few seemingly random people have mysteriously survived. Luke (Hayden Christensen) awakes to quiet in his apartment, then heads off to work. As he steps out of his building, he discovers that everyone is gone. Cars sit empty in the streets; lifeless clothes lie on the ground. Luke eventually discovers that darkness itself is creeping around the city, claiming the people who survived the blackout. Remember those evil shadows in the movie “Ghost” that drug the dead bad guys to hell? It’s sort of like that. Luke learns he can fend off the dark by using flashlights and other luminous devices. He eventually meets three other survivors in a bar. The bar has running electricity–and lights–courtesy of a generator. Rosemary (Thandie Newton) has lost her child; James (Jacob Latimore) has lost his mother; and Paul (John Leguizamo) doesn’t quite know what is happening. The group then begins the work of surviving and fighting off the darkness.
Anderson has directed a couple of compelling films in the past including “The Machinest” (2004) and “Transiberian” (2008), along with episodes from the television series’ “Treme,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Wire.” This movie, though, is a much more by-the-numbers thriller. The are some nicely done sequences, such as when Luke ventures out of his building for the first time. The mood is genuinely surreal and creepy. There’s also a suspenseful scene when Leguizamo ventures into a tunnel, unsure of the danger awaiting him. But overall the movie plays like a pretty-good-made-for-SyFy-television movie. That’s not a bad thing. Just lower your expectations going in, and you’ll enjoy it more.
Newton and Christensen have had hit-and-miss performances in the past. This movie will not win them any acting awards. But they each do okay, given the simple material. It might have been nice to have a little romance, but I suppose when you’re running from the dark, romance isn’t a priority. Leguizamo is one of my favorites, but he seems woefully out-of-place. You could have substituted almost any other actor into his role to achieve the same result. Character development is almost non-existent in the film, so the actors needed only to deliver their lines with a little verve–plus run and jump to escape the dark. They did so. The special effects are fine, but digital darkness is a relatively cheap effect to manage. We’re in low-budget territory here. There are so many plot holes (plus other mashed up nonsense) in the film that I won’t bother to mention them. Just roll with it.
If I seem down on “Vanishing on 7th Street,” I’m not. I liked it. Just know what you’re getting into. The film’s saving grace is that Anderson manages to create just enough suspense, eerie-ness and genuine thrill to make it worthwhile.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
2010, Rated R, 91 minutes, Horror, Mystery, Thriller