Vanishing on 7th Street
Directed by Brad Anderson
Horror's underlying phobia, the fear of the unlighted, is made literal in this solemn, Shyamalanian scarer: it's not what might be hiding in the shadows that threatens to devour the movie's apocalypse-survivors, but darkness itself. (Yes, this premise is very similar to a Dr. Who episode.) As the latest horror movie that loathes its audience, Vanishing begins at an AMC multiplex, where a theater full of knuckleheads (howling at the latest Adam Sandler comedy) instantly goes dark, the patrons disappeared like outspoken Pinochet critics, their clothes left behind like a rapture. Such dematerialization proves a citywide epidemic.
Unfortunately, after this goosepimpling set-up—in which streets are deserted I Am Legend style, and airplanes stumble out of the sky—Vanishing gives way to the schematic assembly of archetypal strangers in a dive bar on the titular block: the precocious orphan (Jacob Latimore), the nurturing single mom (Thandie Newton), the unattached minority (John Leguizamo, unbearably hammy as usual) and the strong white male-with-leadership-qualities (Hayden Christensen). Together, they play out manipulated dramas, have the usual religious "debates" and toss around pseudo-philosophical hypotheses before dying. ("This could all be a new beginning, not an end." Whoa!) It's bad Twilight Zone imitation.
That screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski sets the movie in Detroit suggests that it's also a parable about hope and recovery amid urban decimation, the darkness a representation of economic depression whose severity reduces men to mere shadows. (Except you wouldn't know it was set in Detroit if you didn't read the press notes.) Vanishing also aims epic: it solves the mystery of the abandoned Roanoke Colony 500 years earlier (why not?), and posits the gobbling gloom—which also, somehow, controls the electrical grid—as the facilitator of a planetary reboot on a par with Noah's flood. Diluvian times are here again, and not just in Michigan.
Opens February 18