Vanishing on 7th Street is an interesting horror/science fiction film whose ambiance is reminiscent of the best of the old Twilight Zone series.  As in Kafka’s Metamorphasis or Hitchcock’s  The Birds, the movie deals with what happens when an individual’s basic expectations about the nature of reality are overturned.

Set in present day Detroit, the atmosphere and plot of the film are surreal.   A power outage occurs.  Unless people have access to an independent source of light they disappear under the assault of mysterious shadows.  Even more ominously, normal daylight hours are diminishing, easing the way for the murderous shadows to exert their influence.   In a virtually deserted city,  four survivors assemble at a bar  (what better place to ride out a catastrophe ?).

The survivors are Hayden Christensen  (as a TV reporter), John Leguizamo  (a film projectionist),  Thandie Newton (a physical therapist), and Jacob Latimore (a young boy searching for his mother). The four have assembled at a pub because the establishment has its own power generator which keeps the lights flowing and the devouring shadows at bay.  When the electricity begins to falter, the survivors venture out into the city where they are literally pursued by encroaching forces of darkness.

The tag line on the poster for Vanishing is “Stay in the Light” and it is clear that the film is meant to be interpreted on an allegorical level.  Interestingly, at several points in Vanishing, Roanoke is mentioned.  Roanoke, of course, was an early British colony which mysteriously disappeared in the late sixteenth century. Just as the (albeit small) civilization of Roanoke vanished, the film seems to imply that present day society as we know it is under assault and could disappear.

Vanishing is currently in very limited release in the US, which is ironic since the film is deeply attuned to the present zeitgeist.  So much of contemporary unease in America comes from the sense that an expected way of life is vanishing among the shadows of forces beyond an individual’s control.  Unemployment, the threat of unemployment, foreclosure, outsourcing, declining living standards are all shadowy menaces encroaching on millions of lives.

Even the title of the film could be interpreted symbolically.  Seven is often considered a lucky number.  Is Vanishing on 7th Street a parable that luck is running out?

It is not surprising that the film takes place in Detroit, a city which seems to typify the perception that an accustomed mode of existence is being ominously swept away. Just as others have drawn political implications about 1950’s America in the cult classic Invasion of the Body SnatchersVanishing seems to be a similar commentary on present day economic/political realities.

Although the underlying concept of the film may seem farfetched, the execution of the story is convincing.  At a running length of 90 minutes the premise is not overstretched.  Perhaps the only thing that Vanishing is missing is an appearance by Rod Serling at the beginning of the movie.