What to make of Brad Anderson’s Vanishing on 7th Street?
On the one hand it is an atmospheric little Twilight Zone-flavored piece concerning itself with a handful of survivors of an apocalyptic happening. On the other, it’s a convoluted tale that wants to tackle spiritual, philosophical and existential themes. Sadly, that mixture never seems to gel.
When Luke Ryder (Hayden Christensen) wakes one morning to discover that most of the populace of Detroit has vanished into thin-air, leaving behind only their clothing and other physical artifacts, one can not help but be drawn in to the nightmare scenario. A particularly chilling moment occurs early on as Luke wanders the barren streets and a jet plane falls silently from the sky exploding into flames behind him bringing to mind the horrors of 9/11.
Eventually Luke finds himself drawn to a bar named, “Sonny’s”, (as in Sunny? or Son of God?) where the power is still going strong, the jukebox is playing righteous R & B, and the beer is still cold thanks to a gasoline powered generator. While at the bar he meets a little boy named, James (Jacob Latimore), and a theatre usher named Peter (John Leguizamo). Joining our biblically named trio, is Rosemary (Thandie Newton), a nurse who is grieving her missing child (Rosemary’s baby?). Soon, these four characters in search of an exit are trying to figure out the who, what and why of their situation. Much like the sad souls in Satre’s No Exit, our foursome begin to ponder their own souls and wonder if they are not already dead and being punished for their sins. While at this juncture, one would hope that Vanishing on 7th Street might start to tackle more heady subjects, instead the movie just falls apart and throws in a seat-of-the-pants escape scene, a series of boneheaded moves by the hero, and a quasi-religious dénouement that might leave the viewer shaking his head in disbelief.
Referencing everything from The Rapture, to the Roanoke Colony ,Vanishing on 7th Street provides its audience with plenty of questions, but no damn answers - I mean I love ambiguity as much as the next guy, but there comes a point after you've spent ninety minutes watching a film, you'd like a few answers. Unfortunately there are none to be had. The best we get is a little girl with a flashlight that she claims never turns off, and a final scene of two small children riding a horse to escape Detroit as night falls while the little girl's light keeps on shining.