I had been vaguely curious to see this when it was out, and I recall it got fairly decent reviews. Thank God I didn't! I would have been mightily pissed off. This is by Brad Anderson, who made Session 9, which also got good reviews that DID succeed in getting me to the theater, only to discover that it was a bunch of spooky moments in search of an overall narrative (or if there was one, it didn't succeed in making me care enough to figure it out). Well, same thing here. A bunch of spooky moments (actually, just the one same spooky moment, repeated several times) that may have some point, but one you're unlikely to care about figuring out.
We open with John Leguizamo as Paul, projectionist in an AMC theater. Yes, he keeps his AMC -branded uniform on the entire time. Is this what you have to do to get a movie into theaters these days? I guess so. Suddenly the lights flicker and when they come back, everyone has vanished, leaving a theater and lobby full of clothes. Spoooooky. Around this time you are starting to notice creeping shadows in the edges of many shots. OOoooh. Then Thandie Newton is in a hospital where everyone has vanished. Then Hayden Christenson wanders around a city (seems this was shot in Detroit, which obviously makes finding completely deserted streets easy!), and a plane comes tumbling out of the sky in the background. We learn that cars and cell phones do not work. Except for the cars that do.
Hayden--his character is Luke--goes into a bar that has lights on, three days after the initial vanishing. He has a meet-cute, which involves shots fired, by the way, with a young African-American boy who is waiting for his mother, in denial that she's not coming back. This bar has a generator in the basement, and that's why the lights are still working. Suddenly Thandie Newton as Rosemary comes in, wailing about "My baby! My baby!" Isn't it a little stereotypical by now to have a black woman running around screaming about "My BABY!" You know, if it has been mocked on South Park, it's pretty much time to never do that again. She also fires her gun recklessly, just like the kid does. If I were Luke, I'd get some distance from these unstable powder kegs, and FAST.
Around this time, you might be saying to yourself "Jesus, do the shadows have to be creeping in EVERY SHOT?" And if they're always creeping, creeping closer, don't they ever REACH anything? Anyway, so they hear Paul outside and Rosemary is one of those horror characters who guilts LUKE into going to rescue him, with the same old crap about how we have to retain our humanity, blah, blah. That is, LUKE has to retain his humanity by going out into danger, while she can retain her humanity while resting comfortably in the safety of the illuminated bar. I told you to get away, Luke. Anyway, they bring the injured Paul back, who soon proves to be no prize, or benefit to their plight. In here he have the first of many (many) sequences in which the shadows are creeping in around a character, completely surrounding him, and then they inexplicably get away.
No, it has NOT occurred to any of these characters that they might get more life out of their generator if they were to turn off a few electricity inessentials, like the jukebox. But then--where would the atmospheric music come from? Then Paul is trying to do some repair on the generator, already barely functioning, when he gets frustrated and starts violently kicking it! Repeatedly, almost destroying it! Okay, this guy needs to be SHOT and KILLED, NOW. If this idiot fucktard doesn't have enough sense not to DESTROY THE ONE THING THAT IS KEEPING THEM ALIVE, especially in the middle of some idiotic tantrum, he simply needs to be eliminated. One thing I'd love to see in a movie like this is where the more sensible person realizes that someone like Paul (and Rosemary) are only going to slow them down and possibly get them killed with their moronic outbursts, and simply plug them in the head, execution-style. I guess that wouldn't gibe with Rosemary's views of "humanity," would it? But let's face it, her "ideas" about humanity only come from "hang in there, kitty" posters anyway.
And around now you have to shake your head that Anderson (and writer?) don't seem to realize that WHEN YOUR CHARACTERS ARE IDIOTS, WE HATE THEM. We WANT to see them die. And in this case, much as I think it's actually trying to be progressive, what does it say when the white character is the only one capable of rational thought? Why, that the minorities are closer to God, of course. Luke suddenly accuses Rosemary of laying Catholic guilt on them, although we've had to theological discussion up until that point. But we start to have some afterward, as the group speculates on what's happening, of which one theory is that it's the rapture, and everyone else has gone to heaven. Another is that it's sort of a global reboot of the human race. Regardless, when the shadows are closing in, as they are, constantly, the characters repeat "I exist" as a kind of protective mantra.
SPOILERS > > >
After we've seen the lights flicker for the umpteenth time, you might be like "Boy, this generator sure is holding on a long time on the brink of total failure." And the shadows are still creeping, creeping, creeping, but never reaching anyone. I don't know how many times we see the shadows creeping over the neon sign outside the bar. There are also a few moments outside the bar when the shadows have completely surrounded a character, only to have the character get away somehow. Pretty ineffective shadows, I have to say. Not THAT much of a threat, huh?
Meanwhile James thinks he hears his mother, as he is constantly doing, and gets snarfed up by the shadows during one of the frequent flickers. Paul goes looking for him, down this mysterious door in the basement which leads to some sort of underground bunker. Oh no, is this going to be the dreaded military plot gone wrong? Again? He goes down a long hallway to a door--that is bricked over! Bricked over with cardboard, as you can see the brick wall waver as he bangs against it. Then we come back to James, still alive, only Paul is gone. So it seems that once you vanish, you think you're alone, and the OTHERS are gone. I hope that explains it for you, because that's about all you're going to get.
Then Rosemary goes out looking for "My Baby!" once more and gets snarfed. Then Luke takes the one truck that is working for some reason and drives James to this chuch (i.e. CHURCH), where the boy once more thinks he sees his mama. Luke gets snarfed trying to save him, and James ends up at the alter, surrounded by candles in someone else's bed. The candles go out one by one! James repeats "I exist!" And in the morning, for no reason, he has been spared. And there's a little girl, whose bed it was, who invites James to take off with her on the conveniently-available horse just outside, which they do. The last shot is essentially the poster for season one of The Walking Dead, them riding their horse down a freeway strewn with abandoned cars. The end.
< < < SPOILERS END
So you never get an explanation. You're left to theorize, which relies on the assumption that you care. Which might cause you to reflect that the movie has gone on so long, stretching out the same moment, that you have ceased to care. Anyway, theorize we must. My theory is that it's some sort of religious event, given all the talk of the rapture and purgatory, the fact that all of our characters have biblical names, and one of them survives by taking refuge in a church. But ultimately, who cares?
It seems promisingly spooky at first, but what you have here is a 45-minute Twilight Zone episode stretched to twice its length, and so many of the moments repeat themselves and the shadows keep creeping CLOSER without ever reaching anything, that you start to think the whole thing is just a giant ball of bullshit. And even by the end you're still like "Jeez, EVERY SHOT? The shadows have to be creeping in like EVERY SINGLE SHOT?" Which only makes you feel like those shadows must be pretty darn lame.
Yeah, so that's it. No real reason to watch. I'm kind of surprised this got released in theaters at all, but most likely that's what the big AMC product placement is all about. Regardless, you are quite safe in skipping. Nothing worth seeing here.
No, not really.