Mark Reviews Movies

DARKNESS FALLS

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for terror and horror images, and brief language)

Running Time: 1:25

Release Date: 1/24/03


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Darkness Falls has pushed my tolerance for Hollywood horror movies to the edge. No, itís not the substitution of gory spectacle for actual scares that has gotten to me (this is gore-free PG-13 material) but the horrifyingly incompetent and inane formula that now drives the genre. Of course, Iíve been aware of this common blueprint that has tied many, many horror movies together for some time, but it never really vexed me until now. Itís possible to work within this formula and turn it into something worthwhile, but from its opening "grabber" scene until the "is it really over?" finale, Darkness Falls doesnít have an original idea in its head or turn in its design. Add to that an abundance of questionable logic (you might call it nitpicking, but, either way, itís certainly annoying), a forgettable and silly premise, a series of scenes connected only by shared characters serving as the plot, and an overall execution that accidentally stumbles into the realm of comedy, and you have one really bad horror movie.

The movie steps off on the wrong foot right from the start with an expository narration explaining the origin of the creature that will try to undo our heroes for the rest of the movie. In the town of Darkness Falls (sans the falls) a long time ago, an old woman would give children a gold coin whenever they lost a tooth, hence her nickname "The Tooth Fairy." She was a nice old lady until a fire struck her house, leaving her horribly disfigured. To compensate for her misfortune, she started wearing a porcelain mask and never journeyed outside her home. Two children disappeared, and immediately, the townsfolk accused her. The following day, they hanged her (I guess the townís motto is "We recklessly jump to conclusions"). With her dying breath, she cursed the town and its population (which is quite an accomplishment, considering the circumstances). Cut to more than a hundred years later and a young ten-year-old boy named Kyle seeing his mother killed by the phantom of the woman. Cut to twelve years later, where Kyle (Chaney Kley) has grown from ten to thirty-something and has to return home to help his first girlfriend Caitlin (Emma Caulfield) whose little brother is having similar problems to Kyleís.

The gimmick for this creature is that she goes after children the night they lose their last baby tooth. The way to stay safe is to stay out of the dark because when she was alive, her skin was extremely sensitive to light. This raises an interesting dilemma for the filmmakers. How much light actually counts? Apparently, lightning, moonlight, a carís interior lights (although this one switches depending on necessity), and any kind of general mood-lighting doesnít affect the Tooth Fairy. Youíd think that an entity that canít stand the light would not be seen for a good majority of the time, but the movie has a big problem with showing and telling too much too soon. We know everything about this creature, and the potential mystery and suspense around her existence is gone as a result. For some reason, she has a physical form. She can pick people up, crush cars, break through glass, and can be hit by bullets, but for some stupid reason, after over a hundred years of doing this, she apparently has never thought of breaking the lights that impede her.

She also has a pretty silly and non-threatening way of dispatching her victims. She just picks them up and flies them around, scratching as she goes. We get to see this happen a few times, particularly in the miserably edited action-oriented sequences near the end. In one, a police station comes under attack, and all the cops shoot at the creature and, displaying incredible aim, manage to hit nothing but all the lights in the room. It fortunately leads to one of the only inspired lines in the movie: "The police are dead." In another scene, our hero tries to escape a falling elevator. One moment, heís inches from being dismembered as it begins to fall, but the next moment, heís in the clear. Meanwhile the characters love to point out whatís going to happen next; while driving away, one states that they must be safe in a car. Figure out what happens next. As for the acting, I can say one good thing: At least they donít look directly into the camera.

Darkness Falls was brought to us by three writers, who I assume never had any group meetings about the project. This is director Jonathan Liebesmanís feature film debut, and itís a gigantic step down from his last film, an incredibly effective short titled "Genesis and Catastrophe." Take note of one important thing: This makes perfect material for anyone looking to host a "Mystery Science Theater 3000"-inspired night of movie mockery.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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