It’s too bad a premise as promising as the one in “Vanishing on 7th Street” missed out on getting the treatment it deserved. You’d think a film with a recognizable cast about things that go bump in the night couldn’t miss, but the characters are so disposable that there’s no way they can keep the whole thing afloat. On top of everything, the evil they have to deal with is stuck waiting in the wings while everyone argues about the matter at hand, as if the film needed to clarify just how dire a jam these characters are in. What was it Elvis Presley used to sing about a little less conversation, a little more action?
To be fair, it doesn’t take long for everything to get off the ground. The film begins with a blackout in a multiplex – when Paul (John Leguizamo), a projectionist, investigates with a flashlight on a band around his head, he discovers piles of clothing in every room. Where, though, are the people who came in wearing them?
He’s as much in the dark (ho, ho) as Luke (Hayden Christensen) when he wakes up the next morning alone – Luke assumes his girlfriend left without saying goodbye, but as he ventures from his apartment and finds Detroit empty, it dawns on him that he’s got the city to himself.
Three days later, he’s up to speed on everything: Darkness has taken on a life of its own and wiped out nearly everyone in the city, and although Luke was sure outsiders would rescue him, he’s starting to think the same thing’s happening around the world. The electricity’s still on the fritz, too – except at Sonny’s, a dive with a generator whose owner left her preteen son James (Jacob Latimore) to look after everything so she could find more lights and people. It turns out, though, that more people are finding Sonny’s, namely Luke, Paul and a doctor named Rosemary (Thandie Newton). Of course, with no clue as to what’ll happen next, all they can do is listen to the jukebox play the cheapest songs this side of the copyright tracks.
If you’re familiar with George A. Romero’s “Living Dead” films, you can tell what kind of character-driven atmosphere “Vanishing on 7th Street” is going for. What made the Romero movies classics is the same thing that makes this a clunker: the simple philosophy that character-driven stuff works best when it involves characters you care about. What does it say for a movie when the people it’s supposed to be about aren’t as interesting as darkness?
This article originally appeared on AllMediaNY.com