First off, Vanishing on 7th Street is nothing original. Look at the Amazon review and you'll find that I'm not the only one who saw what it draws heavily on, specifically this part of the description, "this ambitious melding of the Left Behind series, Pitch Black, and any number of Twilight Zone episodes..."
Ever since the Riddick said, "Just one rule, stay in the light," in Pitch Black there's been an unstated call for a movie where the enemy isn't creatures that fear the light, but the darkness itself. (Also a less straightforward unstated call where the rule was, "Stay out of the light," which I suppose applies to some vampire movies.) The movie attempts to answer that call, how well it does I leave as an exercise for the viewer.
I was not overly impressed. I could see the elements of a good film there, but they weren't utilized very well. Also the Roanoke Colony needs a day off every once in a while, especially for this movie which gets even the most basic facts of the disappearance wrong. Put simply, if the characters in the film really were at the site of the second Roanoke they wouldn't need to be nearly so frantic and hurried as they were.
Roanoke was not a flash disappearance. The colonists appeared to have taken the time to dismantle the colony before leaving, they did not carve the distress sign but instead the name of another island, another island that never really got much investigation (there was a storm and stuff) but what little it did get suggests that, yes, they probably moved there for a time at least. They'd been there for a time before, had decent relations with the natives there, and were long overdue for resupply from England so they may have simply decided to look for local help instead.
None of this fits the movie at all.
Introducing Roanoke is just a kind of fucky move that screws up the entire cosmology the movie is trying to project.
I actually came to the movie late, I thought I was going to see just the end but misread times and ended up seeing most of it but I was fortunate enough to come in after what appears to be the major internal plot hole. (The complete lack of understanding of Roanoke is external as it is a failure to understand the real world, not a contradiction within the movie itself.) So that, at least, was nice.
Anyway, other major influence: Left Behind. Of course I recognized that, I have an index for stuff related to that here.
Rapture theology is young, as theologies go, (300 years or so) and hasn't worked out all the kinks yet. For comparison, if this were Christianity as a whole Gnosticism would be a widespread and widely believed alternate option that the now-mainstream beliefs had to fight tooth and nail against for supremacy. Arianism would be alive and well, and the First Council of Nicaea would be due a bit over a quarter century from now (I rounded up to 300 years above.)
Actually, since the dating system is from the supposed birth of Jesus (search anywhere on the internet for why 1 AD is probably not the first year of Jesus' life) make that a bit over a half century from now.
Rapture theology is at a pre-Nicene Creed level of development at this point in history. So there are, as one might expect, some pretty major differences of opinion. Even with all the time Christianity as a whole has had to get on the same page we have how many sects?
Anyway, without even a creed to unite them, Rapture theologians have all manner of beliefs and the one in Left Behind, the one using Tim LaHaye's theology, is what I call a "naked Rapture" because those Raptured away will be taken right out of their clothes. The person disappears, the clothing collapses with nothing to left to support it anymore. The person taken doesn't leave a vacuum in their place, but instead what appears to be an equal volume of air, thus allowing the clothing to fall gently rather than be disturbed by the pressure differences that a vacuum would create.
This idea is taken for Vanishing on 7th Street. I think it might also be argued that, whether it was intentional or not, the idea that the coming in question would be "Like a thief in the night," was also taken, thus explaining why the darkness has to engulf the people for them to be taken. A thief in the night shies away from light sources. Likewise the day is apparently safe time.
So while I don't recommend the movie in general, if you would like to see a really creepy really inclusive portrayal of a LaHayvian Rapture, I do recommend the movie. Go up to the top of the page, click the link, get the movie.
I'm actually not a big "creepy" fan myself and I think the movie was misrepresented to me. This is not, it should be noted, the movie's fault. It was the guide's fault. The description in the guide was something like, "Darkness clears a Detroit neighborhood except for a few residents who fight back with light," or something like that.
It made it seem like the people cleared fled, and the people who stayed were of a "I will not be driven from my home" variety and they were actively fighting against the foothold the darkness had gained in the neighborhood. Sort of like the Twilight Zone episode where the darkness was limited to certain localities.
But more than that it made it seem like they, I don't know, fight.
They don't. There are two competing plans in the move:
1 Shelter in place
2 Run like hell
At no point is fighting the darkness even considered. There's opportunity, it's visible when the darkeness tries to advance at the edges of the light, and forms, like shadows without people to cast them, can be seen in it, an attempt could be made to lure a part of the darkness forward through a dark corridor in an otherwise lit room, and then light something (stuff still burns) to cut it off from the greater darkness. Then force it into a smaller and smaller area, cutting it further and further (also farther and farther but I'm more concerned with further here) from retreat, until finally it's finally extinguished with light.
That would be fighting the darkness. Instead not a single Molotov cocktail is thrown (unless one was in the bit before I came in, but it looks like I really didn't miss that much.) And these people are taking shelter inside a bar.
Someone, injured, is laid out on a pool table because it's a convenient flat surface. Ok, makes perfect sense. His life depends on the overhead lights powered by a dying generator. Why? Why not add to the lights with a back up plan of a fire made from a broken down pool cue. If there's a pool table there's pool cues. Why not have lightable objects everywhere, just in case. Candles and lamps and whatever furniture can be broken down and lit?
Daytime is safe time to gather supplies. They have, what appears to be, all of Detroit to work from. They can't find anything to make fire with except for that one torch and medicinal alcohol gathered elsewhere? They determine that only one truck within pushing distance has a battery with enough power for lights (but not enough to make the engine start) and thus only it can be moved at night. But what about the gasoline in the tanks of all the other abandoned vehicles? It burns. Burning works. The darkness can sap power from batteries, the exception being ones charged via solar power* but it can't stop things from burning.
That's why the generator in the bar works, the darkness can try to fuck with the electricity, but it can't get at the source, burning gasoline. Combustion cannot be stopped by the darkness.
So it seems like combustibles, not batteries, should be what people are looking for. Those other cars and trucks might not be useful as transport, but damned if they should be able to work as something that keeps the darkness at bay. Siphon some gas out, light it. Light source created. Safe zone created. Combustibility is your friend.
In their daylight hours they should be raiding candle stores, lumber stores, anything that fracking burns stores. And as a last resort they should be setting buildings on fire.
But they don't. Because the thing lied to me (again, not the movie, the description of the movie in the guide), they do not fight the darkness. They have only two plans and neither one involves fighting back. The two plans are, again:
1 Shelter in place (but the generator is dying and they never consider using the inflammables to create fires for light.)
2 Run away.
So we get to how I would do it. Which is the point of this post, after all.
Stick to the basic premise: Steal, "Stay in the light," from Pitch Black and, "It wants your body, not your clothes/possessions," from Left Behind.
The confusion of the extent of the darkness was a problem with the description, not the movie, so I'd keep it at, "Unknown but assumed to cover a wide swath, possibly everything."
I'd have a small handful of survivors meet each other after the first mass taking. Maybe as few as two people, and I'd have their attitude evolve as time went on. They'd start out afraid and just trying to survive till the next dawn, but at some point they'd be sick of being on the defensive all the time. They'd lure in the darkness, cut it off from the whole, force it into smaller and smaller spaces until it couldn't dodge their light anymore, and then extinguish it with fire at its center.
And that would be the turning point. Because when the first slice of darkness dies the remainder would retreat. Not far, but where before the darkness could be seen venturing into the edges of the light, now it would be seen to back off, the light would extend further than it naturally should.
And then it becomes not the story of rats in a maze but the story of people fighting against superior numbers. Light goes out and you're dead, but if you can box off a section of the darkness and make the light go in, then it's dead.
I imagine Molotov cocktails, I imagine lighter fluid, I imagine soaking rope in gasoline to make it flammable and then using it to cordon off areas, I imagine making houses airtight and leaving the gas on and then, once the darkness has been driven inside, shattering a window with a burning projectile and watching the brilliant bright explosion and hearing the screams of the darkness as it is killed off.
I imagine laying traps and trying to avoid traps that have been laid (if the darkness can sap a battery it might be able to charge it, it might be able to turn on the lights in order to trick the survivors into thinking another group has been located and then, once it has lured them in, turn the light back off.)
I imagine not hide/runaway but fight.
I imagine flame as a central component, rather than electricity. I think I would keep that the darkness can't sap solar powered batteries, and maybe the musing about the vegetable oil powered car below in the footnote because it places clear limits on what the darkness can do, the closer something is connected to the light, the less power the darkness has over it. The further disconnected the more power the darkness has.
Combustion is a process of light, so the darkness can't stop it. But it's not a process of The Light (that being the sun) so the darkness can have it's way with batteries charged by it, but only after they've stopped being charged. And the closer the combustion charging the battery is to The Light (this tree that was alive and photosynthesizing until I cut it down today is very close, the gasoline from crude oil millions of years in the making is very far) the less power the darkness has over the battery.
If I were to set the movie near a field, then I would imagine a scene where a large portion of the darkness is herded into the field, the field cordoned off with walls of flame so that the darkness couldn't escape, and then the field lit.
I would make it a movie about insurgents in a world that's occupied half of every day. It would alternate between days when planning and preparation and sleep could take place which were calm and uneventful and nights which were filled with fire and darkness.
I left something out. In the actual movie, if the darkness is great enough, and the light is small enough, the darkness can extinguish light. It was candles in that case, and I'm not sure if it was doing it by blowing them out, or just by overpowering the light. Whatever the case, it couldn't manage the last candle (possibly due to force of will on the part of the person protected by it.)
That would probably play a role in what I would do somehow. If people are fighting back against the darkness and winning (and they should be winning because they should be smart and always have combustion on their side which should protect them) the darkness should respond with greater force than it normally uses, which should lead to escalations: bigger fires are needed to keep the darkness at bay because it'll kill off candles. But since the darkness is such a superior force to the survivors bigger strikes against it would also be needed for them to feel like they're accomplishing anything, because however much they kill off, there will always, for the movie at least, be more.
Clear an entire street and that still leaves every other street occupied territory.
Also, if the characters make the connection that solar power = power that the darkness can't sap, they should probably at least try to make their way to somewhere with solar power. I disbelieve the idea that they've never seen a place with solar panels on the roof.
And I think I'd end the movie with a long planned and prepared for (during the day, don't want the darkness listening in/watching) offensive killing off and driving back enough of the darkness that a Tunguska reference could be made. Unlike the Roanoke reference it doesn't matter if this is true or false because it plays no role in the plot, it's just a character saying, "I heard," and the thing she (?) heard is in popular culture. Specifically, "I heard that after Tunguska it was bright enough to read a newspaper in the middle of the night," as a comparison to what it looks like after the darkness fell back.
Or, failing that, every book of Dante's Divine Comedy ends with the stars. So the offensive described above drives back enough of the darkness that the characters can see through it to the starlight, and possibly moonlight, above.
Not an ending of, "We win," but an ending of, "We finally have a major victory." Doesn't answer the question of whether there are other survivors out there. But it does indicate that those who have survived the movie are doing a good enough job that they'll likely go on surviving.
* I wonder if the truck was powered by vegetable oil, it's still removed from direct sunlight, but power from fresh vegetables recently served in a restaurant is a lot closer to the original source (the sun) than power from gasoline that's been refined from crude oil that's been in the ground for millions of years.
Being closer to the original source, light, might make it harder for the darkness to sap.