This film starts with an eerie and inventive premise. It leaves a more haunting, memorable trail than most movies in the genre. But in between its first and its lasting impressions, it somewhat loses its way in the dark.
Too much goes unexplained. For example, we see John Leguizamo stranded in his darkened movie theater one minute - then we next see him lying battered and bruised in an illuminated bus stop shelter. What happened to get him there? In his commentary, Director Anderson says that there was some scripting that would have explained Leguizamo's trajectory, but a variety of constraints prevented this explanation from becoming part of the film. Actually, Anderson thought this was all to the good though - that some things were best left to the imagination. I'm not so sure about that. It seems Leguizamo's navigation of the engulfing, vanquishing night would have been one of the processes most interesting to watch. Without showing such process, the film too often ends up being just abrupt, choppy, and undeveloped.
It also has too many lapses of logic. The creeping darkness doesn't play fair. It shifts its rules of engagement, overwhelming one person, while allowing another similarly situated person to survive, at least for a while. Well, that could be an additional aspect of the evil of the darkness. It toys randomly with its victims, like a cat may or may not toy with a mouse, sheerly on a whim.
Then I had one of my common technical complaints about this film. The DVD often projected as an indecipherable smudge on my TV screen. So it ran as murky rather than sinisterly dark. There is something about the final lighting/filtering process that many modern filmmakers use that causes their movies to be a chore to watch on home TV's. I wish filmmakers would get back to whatever technology was used from the 1920's through the 1960's that allows their films to play as appropriately shaded rather than just obscure when run on a TV screen.
The Director's commentary doesn't add a lot to a viewer's appreciation of the film. Brad Anderson starts out sounding too much like Ben Stein, making a dreary, nasal drone of his narrative. So unless you have a lot of spare time, you can probably skip the commentary and most of the other extras, except for the interviews.
However the Director's commentary does highlight at least one telling aspect of this film and its making. Anderson talks about how apt it was to settle on Detroit as a location for the action. The City itself is perhaps the most fascinating character in the entire movie. It becomes an icon of our crumbling economy, our crumbling culture. Some of the scenes in the movie call for shots of major urban intersections shown desolate, abandoned, post-apocalyptic. Anderson said that he hardly had to clear Detroit's streets and highways of cars and people for these scenes. They are already so often eerily null. So many buildings are already hollow, echoing shells of once vital industries. These shots in and of themselves served as chilling prognostications of what can in reality befall all our cheery, oblivious bustle.
So this movie is overall worth watching - for its darkling premise, and for its stunning views of Detroit.