It might be easy to suppose that horror uses religion gratuitously. Or it may be that the connection runs much deeper. Yes, many people are still religious as growing numbers are becoming less so, but both kinds watch horror. As is usual for a guy who doesn’t get out much, I learn about movies often by reading about them in various analyses. That’s how I came across the box-office flop, Vanishing on 7th Street. While various critics point out its flaws, to me it watches like an extended Twilight Zone episode, exploring interpersonal dynamics when a bad situation overcomes a community. For reasons unexplained, people without a light source disappear. This is somewhere not too far from Chicago, but we don’t know exactly where. Five people have managed to survive and four of them end up in a bar that has power because of a back-up generator.
Jim, an African-American boy, is waiting for his mother to return to the tavern. She was the bar tender but had run to the local church to find other people because the lights were on. She didn’t return and three other people make their way to the bar. Disagreeing on a course of action, or what has happened, they try to work together to stay in the light. Jim eventually makes a break for the church. He alone manages to survive there until daylight reveals a young girl named Briana, spotted throughout the movie, with a solar-powered flashlight. The others have all vanished, so Jim and Briana decide to try to make it to Chicago together as night falls.
Wikipedia calls the film “post-apocalyptic,” but I would say it’s more metaphorical. The only two characters to survive do so by finding refuge in a church. No prayers are said, but candles keep the darkness and its dangers at bay. There’s plenty to reflect on here, even though we don’t know what has led to this situation or why the shadows snatch people, leaving rapture piles of clothes all over the place. Not a fast-paced movie, it’s a film with only one jump-startle and plenty of time to think. That was my take on it. Not all horror has to be slasher-oriented. I was really puzzled why this one ended up with an R rating. Sometimes horror just makes you think. Often that thinking involves reflections on the meaning of life. Some would call that philosophy, but those who consider the light and its relationship to darkness tend to call it religion.