Vanishing on 7th Street
One fateful day in Detroit, a news reporter named Luke (Hayden Christensen) awakens in an empty apartment. His girlfriend is missing and the power is out. Things become more disquieting when he reaches the lobby, piles of clothing and personal belongings the only mysterious evidence of people's existence. Things are just as desolate in the city street, where empty cars are strewn about in chaos after driverless accidents. Moments later, a jetliner interrupts the quiet, dropping from the sky just miles away.
The Rapture? If only.
Vanishing on 7th Street begins with a premise all too reminiscent of the first Left Behind book or Stephen King's The Langoliers. It prepares us for an intriguing movie steeped in mystery, creepy ambience, and deep moralizing among the characters about what they think is happening, all befitting of classic Twilight Zone or an M. Night Shyamalan movie. But Vanishing ultimately proves a hollow and frustrating experience—it's all setup with no payoff.
Luke's introduction would have made a stronger opening to the film. The same might be said of Rosemary (Thandie Newton), a physical therapist working at the hospital when the lights go out and all hell breaks loose—her 9-month-old baby is missing, along with everyone else. Instead, things begin awkwardly in a movie theater with film projectionist Paul (John Leguizamo). Maybe the idea was to spook out the Vanishing filmgoers, but clunky dialogue and stilted acting keep the scene from working like it should, while revealing too much too soon.
Regardless, these three characters are eventually drawn to a bar on 7th Street—one of the few places left with working power thanks to a gas-powered generator—where they find 12-year-old James (Jacob Latimore). They seek refuge in the light away from growling, shadowy shapes in the dark (reminiscent of the evil spooks from 1990's Ghost) that whisk people away when the power goes out. This darkness grows stronger every day with increasingly less daylight, and battery powered flashlights will only get them so far.
Most of the film is spent in the bar with the four characters arguing about what they should do next and how to escape. One of them, of course, asks the obvious question: "Why are we the ones left behind?"
To reveal more would be a spoiler, but these questions arose during the film: Do these four characters share something in common that has brought them together? What are the whispering, Lost-like voices they hear in the dark? Is the widespread darkness confined to Detroit, or is the rest of the world affected? Does it matter that these four characters have biblical names? Is the darkness accidental or purposeful? Is the nearby church with light emanating from it important? Are the characters stuck in an alternate reality? Is their fate somehow related to what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke? And why do characters cannibalize electronics for batteries when they could simply loot the nearby convenience store?