Vanishing on 7th Street is a B movie. Luckily, some B movies are really good, like Pitch Black, Deep Blue Sea, and this one.
Paul (John Leguizamo) runs the projectors at the local multiplex. The power goes out so he puts on his headband-light to see what’s up and explain the problem to the patrons. Out in the hallway, it’s quiet. Too quiet. Nobody is around. Same goes for the mall and the theater itself. All the people have vanished, leaving little piles of warm clothing (see also The Quiet Earth). Creepy!
Naturally Paul sets out into the darkness to see if there’s anyone left alive. There are a few people, and they’re gathered at a bar under the neon lights. The cast of about 8 characters from different backgrounds makes Vanishing on 7th Street a bit like a disaster flick. That’s also a number that allows for some ruthless culling like in a good horror film.
The survivors have pieced together that the darkness will take you, so you need to stay lit. Batteries are lasting less and less long, for some reason. Most cars are completely dead, and chemical lights only burn for so long. Also, for some reason, daylight is darker and shorter than it used to be.
It’s a great setup. First of all it’s a nice blend of threat and mystery, giving the plot lots of room to move. You could ask why it’s happening (the best-informed of our survivors is the one who reads unexplained mysteries). You could ask “why me” (Thandie Newton’s character has her theories). You could try to figure out how to get “away” (Hayden Christensen’s character is working on it).
It’s also a nice subtext for our own energy future. There is only so much energy to support human life, and once we use it up, we’re all going to die, regardless of background. We need to be smart and work together if we’re going to solve, let alone understand, our problem. Our best hope is solar power — direct from the source.
Maybe one of the neatest tricks pulled by screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski and director Brad Anderson is that when the darkness swallows a victim, there is no gore. That’s not to say it isn’t scary — just that it isn’t bloody, so my squeamish friends can still watch and have a great creep-out.
Vanishing on 7th Street isn’t perfect. There’s a scene in the middle that fumbles the momentum, and it seems like more could have been done with the idea. But as a B movie it definitely deserves a place on the marquee.