Vanishing on 7th Street

There, amid neon signs and a Motown-stuffed jukebox, they escape the darkness that aims to make them disappear.

The punch line? "Star Wars" prequel pretty boy Hayden Christensen is the star.

Actually, he's not half-bad in "Vanishing on 7th Street," the latest thriller from Brad Anderson, who has a streak for making great ones that few see, like "The Machinist," "Session 9" and "Transsiberian." This one's just all right, despite having the strongest concept.

That is that suddenly, without warning, all of Detroit — and perhaps the world, who knows? — has a seemingly permanent blackout, any anyone who doesn't have a light source on their person vanishes (hence the title), eerily leaving behind a pile of clothes. Our few survivors — the aforementioned Christensen, plus a hysterical Thandie Newton and mumbling John Leguizamo — hole up in the only place around with a generator.

They know the shadows kill, and the hours of sunlight decrease greatly by the day. What they don't know is why, and don't you go searching for answers. This is a thriller interested in answering only one question: "What would happen if ... ?"

The approaching shadows make for a creepy effect. It's the kind of story that would've made for a great half-hour in the hands of Rod Serling, but grows underwhelming after the first act and settles into a method of repetition that the occasional flashback cannot break. It doesn't help that Anderson cheats the rules at least three times, or that the ending is terrible. (But it's the best they had, as several alternates among the extras prove.)

Like all of Anderson's work, "Vanishing" is well-executed, but not the creative and commercial breakthrough he deserves. —Rod Lott