I always welcome horror movies about the dark, especially those not just about the fell beasts or villains within but the dark and shadows themselves. And I'm also very fond of the weirder and/or quieter kind of apocalyptic horror, ones that don't knock us down with zombies or meteors and then boot us in the nards with man's inhumanity to man exposed. So Vanishing on 7th Street is pretty much my ideal film, and at comes close at times to my ideal of such a movie so though flawed I can't help but have quite a soft spot for it.
Slick news guy Luke, cinema projectionist Paul and nurse Rosemary all start off going about their own business, but as mysterious blackouts cause mass vanishings, they find themselves trapped in a bar with kid James, fighting off the darkness as the situation grows dire. Hayden Christensen plays the first, the weaker of the four he struggles at times to convincingly animate his character. A trickier character granted, a little weak and unsympathetic to begin with, but still could have been handled better. John Leguizamo is a good deal better as projectionist Paul, a sort of awkward, geeky type whose reserves of intensity have been forced to burst. Thandie Newton is also rock solid as the desperate, straining at her tethers Rosemary, while Jacob Latimore is agreeably sympathetic as tough young James. An effective ensemble, most of the best moments here come from their interactions, which pack at times get a good hold on the ol' ticker despite being a bit clichéd. Even as things don't go as well as they ideally might they keep things exciting.
Alas the film doesn't really make the best of its potential. At first the dark is a credibly creepy adversary, shadows not just the broken, shifting, grasping semblances of the physical but alive to catch and steal away, taking the forms of vestigial creatures, only just discernible from mere tricks. But before too long they take on consistent shape and then mostly change neither their shape nor their tactics, leaving the film in a slightly lower gear than it should switch to to really keep it going. The film also doesn't have much in the way of explanation, dropping frustratingly fascinating hints that it doesn't really follow up on. The idea of humanity not as masters of reality but mere flickering image to something else, the centrality of will to existence, this is heady stuff indeed. But instead things go along standard lines, no true commitment and a sappy and inane cap off for good measure. Still, there's a lot to like with these problems set aside, a number of tense moments, one or two legit jolts and general fun with the basic concept so this gets a fair recommendation to the interested and less inclined to pick away. Probably merits more investigation of the thoughts of others as like I said, this is totally my kind of thing and it seems not to be terribly popular, but still a thumbs up.