Can you even have a horror movie without the dark? Apart from Stanley Kubrick's white-bright Overlook Hotel in The Shining (the harshly lit dare that proves the rule), the whole idea of "things that go bump in the night" would seem to require, well, night. Or at least some shade.
Vanishing on 7th Street takes this durable premise and literalizes it to the point of dull. All is fine one Detroit afternoon---or as fine as it gets in this particular city---until the lights go out and the entire population, save our few hardy heroes, instantly goes up in smoke. A projectionist (Leguizamo) hears a few muffled screams from his theater but finds no one, just some crumpled clothes. A TV reporter (ex--Star Wars golden boy Christensen) and a physical therapist (Newton) are equally flummoxed. They collect in a small tavern with a power generator and an old-timey jukebox, where they come to the ridiculous conclusion that the shadows are out to get them.
Isn't this falling down on the job? Black shapes stretch menacingly across the walls (courtesy of some hyperactive animation), light sources flicker, and the movie begins to feel like a grad-school thesis masquerading as entertainment. So what's the metaphor? It's way too vague to tell. Director Brad Anderson (The Machinist) has occasionally shown himself to be a quiet builder of atmosphere, yet his underwhelming latest suggests he's lost his edge in a dense fog. "I exist," his characters desperately murmur over and over, as the night envelops them. Please. If you're going to ask audiences to submit to a dim theater themselves, at least greet them with the proper monster they paid for.
Watch the trailer