Vanishing on 7th Street
The premise of the film is by far the most interesting aspect of the film. A city suffers a power outage and by time the back-up generators start the majority of the population has disappeared. All that is left is their clothes, vehicles, cellphones, etc. After 72 hours without power, and the with the menacing darkness quickly expanding, four survivors (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, and Jacob Latimore) must figure out a way to elude the darkness and get out of the city.
One of the main reasons I was so eager to see Vanishing on 7th Street was due to the fact that is was directed by Brad Anderson. His work on films such as Session 9, and The Machinist, as well as his contribution to shows like Fringe are proof enough that Anderson knows how to tell an eerie tale well. So what happened to with this film? To be honest, all of my issues with this film stem from Anthony Jaswinski’s screenplay.
Vanishing on 7th Street never explains why the darkness occurs or how it can be stopped. Sure there are several nods to a bigger spiritual type of cleansing going on, not the mention the not so subtle reference to Adam and Eve, but nothing is ever stated in concrete terms. Leaving things up to the viewer’s imagination is always better in regards to horror. Unfortunately, the problem is that Vanishing never establishes any real rules for “the darkness” and the film takes liberties with this. One minute “the darkness” is afraid of light, the next it is manipulating it by showing a baby stroller under a street light. A character can survive 72 hours covered in glow sticks yet, later on in the film, “the darkness” can magically drain the power of newly opened glow sticks, batteries, etc. There is never any rhyme or reason to much of the actions of “the darkness”.
This lack of consistency flows into the characters themselves. While I can understand people not thinking straight in the first 48 hours, one would start to wise up just a tad after 72 hours. Characters are constantly making stupid decisions at every corner of the film. For example, Luke (Christensen) and Rosemary (Newton) decide to leave the only well lit building on the entire street to go searching for a working car. Before leaving Rosemary place a bunch of glow sticks around James (Latimore), but none on Paul (Leguizamo)…who is lying wounded on the pool table. It is very telling when the smartest character in the entire film is the one with the least amount of screen time, Briana (Taylor Groothuis).
The repetitive nature of characters making one stupid mistake after the next really hinders any form of character development within the film. It is a shame that Jaswinski never seems to figure out how to evolve his story past the great initial premise. If the story and characters had been stronger Vanishing on 7th Street could have been a decent film. Sadly the film feels like a low-rent sequel to the equally silly movie, Darkness Falls.