In the sleepy coastal town of Darkness Falls, circa 1850, a sweet old lady who gives coins to children when they lose their baby teeth is mistakenly lynched after several kids go missing. She vows to come back and kill the town’s children whenever they lose that last tooth. Now Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley) – the only one to survive a Tooth Fairy attack - returns to Darkness Falls when contacted by his former girlfriend, Caitlin (Emma Caulfield). Her young brother (Lee Cormie) is in a psych ward, terrified of the Tooth Fairy. With Kyle back in town, the spirit can finish off some old business – and new. But she can only attack in the dark…
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Film lovers beware! The evil spirits of boredom will befall should you enter a darkened cinema and endure Darkness Falls. This is only a dimly lit horror movie – on both sides of the camera – and anyone who loves a good scare will find more jump in Monsters, Inc. instead. An abhorrently loud, brash and boorish creature feature starring a CGI ghost that fails to scare, Darkness Falls…quite literally…flat on its face.
Though filmed largely in Melbourne, this is a gormless American ghost movie that defies logic at every turn. The film’s big catch is that the tooth fairy can’t go into the light because, I believe, she is light-sensitive (a light-sensitive ghost – now that’s funny!). But instead of creating a believably spooky atmosphere in which darkness falls due to the Fairy’s dastardly doings, the scriptwriters (all four of them) come up with one cheesy excuse for a black-out after another, be it power failure, dead batteries in the flashlight or candles blowing out in the wind. As such, you might think one of them might make the hero (and I use the term loosely in Kley’s case) a lighting expert, thus arming himself intelligently against the ghost of his past. No such luck. Buffy’s Emma Caulfield is slightly more heroic.
There is something remarkably distasteful about a ghost that comes to eviscerate innocent children, don’t you think? And what of the town’s police, who keep a giant box marked ‘Unsolved Cases’ in the station just to show how many kids have been hacked up on their watch? But if logic prevailed in Darkness Falls, the film might drag on for more than its 75 minutes (not including credits) running time, and that would be truly scary. This awful un-scary movie culminates in a riotous lighthouse sequence during a blackout, where our heroes must stay in the dimming light to survive. Do us a favour - jump.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Sometimes it doesn’t matter that horror films make no sense – keeping people confused can be a good first step towards scaring them witless. Sadly, this doesn’t apply to Darkness Falls, an atmospheric little horror film that comes undone due to a silly and confusing premise, or rather two premises that don’t hang together.
On the one hand, we have the idea of a murderous spirit literally lurking in the shadows, a familiar but effective basis for ‘pure cinema’ – from shot to shot, the young director Jonathan Liebesman and his cinematographer Dan Lausten are pretty good at visualising a primal conflict between darkness and light. Their approach works best in the hushed, restrained early scenes, perhaps influenced by recent hits like The Ring and The Others: rather than being shown directly, the presence of evil is felt in the darkened corridor of a family home, the pale, stricken face of a small boy, the crackling storm and shadows of rain flowing down walls.
The second, less promising idea involves equating this monster with the Tooth Fairy – an enticing yet idiotic ‘high concept’ that needed to be either played for camp parody or worked out in deadpan detail. In practice, this mythology is established then largely ignored, suggesting an incomplete script rewrite at the last minute; the second half of the film mainly consists of a series of well-shot though repetitive chase scenes, playing on the presence and absence of light sources (torches, power failures, etc) and our partial inability to see or understand what’s going on.
While I suppose it’s a good thing that Liebesman and his writers largely eschew the usual smirking wisecracks, Emma Caulfield (of Buffy fame) is disappointingly bland when not given the chance to show off her brittle comic skills; the other actors are forgettable, though the audience at the preview screening perked up a bit during an incongurous cameo appearance from local comic Angus Sampson (the film was shot in Australia). Overall, this is a bit better than might be expected, though not recommended except to genre fans – and even they might start wondering what collecting kids' teeth has to do with horror.
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DARKNESS FALLS (M)
CAST: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro, Sullivan Stapleton, Steve Mouzakis, Peter Curtin
PRODUCER: John Fasano, John Hegeman, William Sherak, Jason Shuman
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman
SCRIPT: John Fasano, James Vanderbilt, Joe Harris (story by Joe Harris)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dan Laustsen
EDITOR: Timothy Alverson, Steve Mirkovich
MUSIC: Brian Tyler
PRODUCTION DESIGN: George Liddle
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 28, 2003