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Not even the most diehard sci-fi horror fan will be satisfied by “Vanishing on 7th Street,” roughly 100 minutes of R-rated, plotless, pointless schlock directed by Brad Anderson and written by Anthony Jaswinski. Pic is scheduled to go direct to video on demand on 7 January 2011, where unsuspecting, bleary-eyed people who might otherwise be tempted by a shopping channel will order it only to fall asleep or regret staying awake until the end. (Note to theatergoers: Stay in bed on February 18, when this trash opens on some screens.)
Premise is simple. People vanish. There is no explanation and hardly any backstory. All the filmmakers let on is this: TV reporter Luke (Hayden Christensen) has left Chicago and his weather reporter girlfriend for a gig in Detroit, where he shacks up with a good-looking TV anchor at his new station. We would not know that most of pic is set in Detroit except for the press materials. We also know that Rosemary (Thandie Newton), a physical therapist who becomes one of pic’s protagonists, is a recovering drug addict and a Catholic.
The vanishing bit is simple. People in the dark suddenly disappear. Only heaps of empty clothing remain where the people had been. This is driven home by a scene in an AMC Theater (product placement, anyone?) wherein projectionist Paul (John Leguizamo) finds an entire theater full of people missing mid-picture. (Note to VOD auds: Leave a nightlight on while watching.) Qucikly, the days grow shorter and the nights longer, an encouragement to the shadows (just shadows, no kidding) that envelop people and make them vanish when they are outside the range of light.
Luke finds his way to a bar where the lights are on, courtesy of a tricky backup generator (the bar owner must have been a survivalist). A kid (James, played by Jacob Latimore) greets him with a shotgun. James is waiting for his mother, Rosemary, to return from the local church. Eventually Rosemary, projectionist Paul, and a little girl (Briana, played by Taylor Groothuis) who is either very lucky with light sources or has some kind of mystical power, also find their way to the bar — just ahead of the shadows.
One by one, in increasingly unbelievable situations — such has getting a truck started by hooking it’s DC battery to an AC generator, which in the real world would cause an explosion (heck, while it lasts at least there would be plenty of light) — the protagonists vanish, until there are two (guess who) left. Courtesy of a stray police horse which shows up at just the right time, the pair head for Chicago, where Luke believes people are still alive thanks to a satellite feed he caught while visiting his TV studio. Pic’s equivocal ending is totally unsatisfying, and it begs a sequel. Forget it. “Vanishing on 7th Street” is bad enough. It strains credulity to imagine how bad “Vanishing on 8th Street” would be.