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Vanishing on 7th Street: Beware of Darkness, Ambiguity

Hayden Christensen. John Leguizamo. Thandie Newton. When I heard that three of my least favorite actors were going to be in a movie together, I knew I had to see it. Sure, it didn't have John Travolta or Katherine Heigl, but let's not get carried away, here. We don't want people to hurt themselves. The plot didn't even matter -- it looked like a sci-fi horror movie to me, and that's all I needed to know. As long as everyone got to over-act, and then be annoyingly glib with each other, I would be happy, and in that respect the film didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, the plot left a lot to be desired, and the cast spends the entire movie fighting off darkness and shadows with flashlights. Hayden Christensen once taught us to never underestimate the power of the dark side, but it's not enough to base an entire movie on.

In the film, Christensen wakes up in a city where most of the population has disappeared overnight, leaving behind their empty clothes and empty cars and crashing airplanes. (Shades of FlashForward!) It seems that living shadows are finding us and taking us away, only they need complete darkness to do it, and they can shut off the power to places to get it. As a result, only a personal light source can keep them away: a lighter, a flashlight, a glow-stick, etc. If you can get a car to start, car headlights will also work -- even though they apparently didn't work initially, nor did airplane control panels. Gas-powered generators work, too, and it's a bar powered by a generator that Christensen (now a heartless scavenger) arrives at days later, followed by a nurse (Newton) and a projectionist (Leguizamo). The bar is run by a boy whose mother has gone missing, which means all four have lost somebody important to them. And with the days getting shorter, the gas running low, and the shadows starting to mimic their lost loved ones (or are they actually the loved ones?), time is running out, which leads to a lot of fighting and flipping out on each other.

The movie is technically post-apocalyptic, but it's not like we get to see too many cool scenes -- it's low-budget film, so it's really dark outside most of the time, with a lot of shooting day-for-night, and they keep adding more shadows in post, including human-shaped statues that stand around and watch them from a safe distance. I'd say that the idea of shadows hunting us sounds cool, but it's been done before, in a million movies where shadows reach out to attack somebody, and they've even walked around and done stuff in movies like The Eye. It's never really made clear what these shadow creatures are, but they're pretty uninteresting as bad guys, both visually and motivationally. They can't go near light, but they spread darkness, so it's not exactly clear why they can't catch these remaining people, let alone why they want to. So if you're looking for a generically spooky supernatural thriller, catch the movie on demand, but don't expect the film to shed any light on the storyline.

Vanishing on 7th Street opens Friday at the Village East in New York City, but is also available on demand. Let us know what you thought of it below, and click here for more reviews!

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