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Darkness Falls DVD Review

Darkness Falls

February 2, 2001

Director: Jonathan Liebesman,
Starring: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro, Sullivan Stapleton, Steve Mouzakis, Peter Curtin, Kestie Morassi, Jenny Lovell, John Stanton, Angus Sampson, Charlotte Rees, Joshua Anderson, Emily Browning, Rebecca McCauley, ,

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DVD Review


As horror films become more and more mainstream and cool again the tendency for them to go too far and become tepid and has become all too frequent.

Horror is the new Action Thriller, the sort that used to star Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd plodding their way through some paper-thin plot and laboriously staged action sequences. They’d get banged out in large numbers each year with a limited guaranteed box office draw. They wouldn’t be massive, but they’d do all right and every so often one would break from the pack and become a runaway success. That’s what the Horror genre has now become. Gone are the days when a Horror movie opened to half empty cinemas, occupied by bearded nerds and film students. Now you’ll get young couples, middle aged, the elderly or infirm and people with little or no interest in Horror.

As a consequence the edginess and raw energy that some of the greatest Horror movies relied upon has been replaced with safe directing and signature plot points. You know what you’re going to get, so don’t expect anything else.

Darkness Falls fits very easily into this category, as the whole premise for the film is outlined at the beginning in a convenient retelling of the legend of the Tooth Fairy; a local woman who used to look after children and give them money for their teeth. When a fire horrifically burned her she was forced to wear a mask and stay out of direct sunlight, but one day when two children went missing the townspeople blamed her for hit and hung her as an act of revenge. The next day the children were found safe and well, but now the woman stalks the town killing any children who gaze upon her face as she takes their last teeth.

That about tells you all you need to know about the film. It seems a bit of a stretch to me that a woman who loved children would then go around killing them, when they hadn’t done anything to her, but there you go.

Cat (played by the enchanting Emma Caulfield) is having problems with her little brother’s night traumas. Naturally we know that he’s being stalked by the Tooth Fairy, and thus he’s afraid of the dark. She calls up her old school friend Kyle, who’d been sent to a mental asylum after the Tooth Fairy had killed his mother and he’d been blamed for it. He doesn’t seem like the first person I’d call, but hey.

Kyle now takes all manner of medication and always carries around a huge supply of torches to keep out of the dark. His return to Darkness Falls (how many spooky American coastal towns are there, and how many of them have been persecuted by this type of legend?) doesn’t ignite the locals’ warmness towards him as they believe he’s a freak. Plus it isn’t long before people start winding up dead, and always with Kyle around.

Despite all of the bodies, and the police chasing after him, Cat still believes Kyle’s story about a ghostly figure killing people in the darkness. Together they try and figure out how to stop the Tooth Fairy, which culminates in a showdown in a lighthouse.

The set of the film looks very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Fog and is it has to be said, quite spooky in its own right. The film however is a little on the thin side with nary a shocking moment or genuine fright to be found. This is the trouble with Horror movies today; they’re no longer made for Horror fans! The ending, much like the whole film, was very predictable and the film had that overly polished yet under utilised feel.

Coming in at under Eighty minutes also gives the film little time to branch out on any ideas or create any memorable scenes of tension. It gets in, tells its story, and gets out.

Emma Caulfield was an amiable damsel in distress, and smouldered very nicely. Chaney Kley bordered on the wooden, and even looked a little like Pierce Brosnan. Overall this wasn’t a bad film by any means, but it certainly isn’t what I would describe as Horror. The mainstream appeal that films like this now have has been offset by a distinct blandness and lack of willingness to be genuinely terrifying.

Films like Darkness Falls fall into a new genre of their own, Bland Horror. Made for people who don’t like movies to be scary. They can now go to the cinema and watch a film that’s classed as ‘Horror’ and say that they’ve done it. I’d hate to think of the shock someone would get if they saw this and thought all Horror movies were this scary, and then went to see the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Alien.

Special Features

I didn’t hate this film until I saw these extra features, but now I realise that the director believes that everything that’s wrong with this movie is what makes it stand out from other films. The guy’s completely missed the point. He explains in the making of documentary that he’s subverting the genre of horror. What? He’s adding extra bland. He goes on to say that the studio wanted a PG-13 so you weren’t going to get a graphic film, and that the tension would have to be built up in other ways. Shame he couldn’t find them.

Other people interviewed said that the director wasn’t interested in making a slasher film, he wanted to make a Jaws or Alien, the sort of film that would become a classic. OK then, he failed.

The deleted scenes show a series of scenes that add extra character to the film, yet were removed for some reason, probably to improve pacing. Yet seeing as the film is only Seventy-Five minutes long it hardly drags. As for the deleted parts of the corridor sequence, what were they thinking? The segments they removed actually had a semblance of tension to them, making for a far more effective sequence, yet they were removed. I can only assume that they did this because of lack of time or money in completing the effects for that sequence. Any other reason would be just absurd.

The full ending also had a few shots of grisly violence to them, with Kyle getting his eye gauged by the Tooth Fairy. Naturally this was removed to make the film more palatable for the non-horror initiated among the audience. Why oh why oh why?

As well as the pointless storyboard to scene comparison we get a mockumentary about the legend of Matilda Dixon featuring Aussie actors who were presumably turned down for the film itself, and on this evidence turned down from Neighbours and Home And Away as well.

As I mentioned, Darkness Falls isn’t a bad film, but it’s no Horror movie. It’s by the numbers, light weight and lacking in chills. If you want a mild film to break you into the idea of a scary film, then you could do worse.

 

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 68%

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