(Brad Anderson, 2010)
There's a pleasing shade of John Carpenter to director Brad Anderson's work in the horror genre. It's there in his clever visual economy, and in his use of the edges of the frame, and in the sustained tone of creeping, quiet dread he establishes.
Vanishing on 7th Street even has the sort of premise Carpenter would surely appreciate; an apocalyptic darkness falls upon the world for an instant, and when it lifts, almost everybody is gone. Small piles of clothes litter the ground. The shadows seem alive as the days shrink in length and the few survivors, brandishing flares and flashlights and fleeing the steadily encroaching dark, desperately seek escape. In a touch straight from Carpenter's love of Hawks' Rio Bravo, a few survivors hole up in a bar powered by a stuttering back-up generator.
That is all set up with confidence and aplomb and a fair degree of creepy imagery in the first twenty or so minutes. After that, the film is less successful, a bit talkier than it needs to be as it's players discuss their situation and reveal various emotional backstories, and - a common flaw in apocalyptic movies - settling for a small drama when it's opening had suggested the endlessly epic possibilities of this altered world.
So we settle in for an act at the bar, with Hayden Christenson efficient as the hero and Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo emoting and gurning much more in the character roles.
This is a neat enough B-movie; short, generally well-paced and full of creepy set-pieces, it is another reminder (after the superior Session 9) of Anderson's superb craftsmanship. It admirably refuses explanations - a peek at Leguizamo's book and it's chapter on Dark Matter together with his talk of Croatoan and the Lost Colony are as close as we get - and finds just the right tone for an ending which is pessimistic, but with a single optimistic note and a lovely final image; two children on horseback, riding out of the city.
Hopefully at some point Anderson will get the backing of a big studio and a big budget to make the great movie of which he is evidently capable.