VANISHING ON 7TH STREET taps into one of humankind's most primal anxieties: fear of the dark. An unexplained blackout plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, and by the time the sun rises, only a few people remain surrounded by heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. A small handful of strangers that have survived the night (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo and Jacob Latimore) each find their way to a rundown bar. With daylight beginning to disappear completely and whispering shadows surrounding the survivors, they soon discover that the enemy is the darkness itself.
Beginning with its title--a combination of promisingly enigmatic and weirdly specific--this ambitious melding of the Left Behind
series, Pitch Black
, and any number of Twilight Zone
episodes has creepy atmosphere to burn, but its refusal to finally turn over its cards may frustrate viewers in the mood for closure. The plot turns on an admittedly monster hook: following an unexplained mass vanishing, a handful of Detroit residents (including Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, and an uncharacteristically muted John Leguizamo) find themselves surrounded by leagues of whispering, carnivorous shadows, kept at bay only by the city's dwindling sources of light. Anthony Jaswinski's script drops tantalizing references to religious prophecies, human-made catastrophes, and real-life phenomena (including the still unexplained 16th-century disappearance of the entire Roanoke Colony), but never really seems to fix on the specifics of its particular spooky situation, leaving the audience to fill in an increasing number of blanks. That the film ultimately works as well as it does is due to director Brad Anderson, a filmmaker whose previous work (including The Machinist
and the wonderfully upsetting Session 9
) has displayed a firm grasp of place. Here, he outdoes himself, creating a barren, unstable metropolis with barely glimpsed slitherings in virtually every corner. If the narrative lived up to its surroundings, this could have been a small classic of the genre. As it stands, it's a case of the frame overshadowing the contents. --Andrew Wright