**/**** Image B- Sound A Extras B-
starring Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Joshua Anderson, Andrew Bayly
screenplay by John Fasano and James Vanderbilt and Joe Harris
directed by Jonathan Liebesman
by Walter Chaw Two years removed from Victor Salva's Jeepers Creepers (and on the eve of a sequel to that film), Darkness Falls whets cult appetites by being nearly a scene-for-scene recreation of that film's inferior second half. Essentially a series of "I don't believe your story--hey, why did the lights go out?" scenarios and unearned jump scares, the picture opens with a nice fairytale prologue and a nifty "12 years ago" introduction that hints at the promise of a murderous Tooth Fairy. As soon as the action jumps to present-day with a warbling youngster, her hot sister, and our troubled hero, however, any pretense of a creepy, coherent mythology flies out the window as the flick devolves into an inexorable-killer flick amped-up to "11."
Kyle (Chaney Kley) makes the mistake of looking into the face of the spectral Tooth Fairy on the night his mother is murdered by it, dooming him to a scruffy half-life of a medicine cabinet full of anti-psychotics and a duffel stuffed with flashlights. It seems that the murderous sprite is, in fact, the shade of some old Blair Witch-y lady, unjustly killed by the denizens of Darkness Falls and seeking to take her revenge A Nightmare on Elm Street-style on the descendents of our teeny hamlet. Wearing a Gaston Leroux mask to hide her burned, terminally photosensitive features, Darkness Falls is a weird cocktail of Pitch Black and "Zork" as the bogey does her best to collect teeth (shrug) without being seen. As the film proper opens, the "I see dead people" little brother (Lee Cormie) of childhood sweetie Caitlin (Emma Caulfield, a "Buffy" veteran making her big-screen debut) starts suffering from night terrors, prompting Kyle to return to Darkness Falls and confront New England's distaff Freddy Krueger.
Clearly edited for pace rather than story, Darkness Falls is so loud that its shortcomings as an actual horror film come swimming into focus. The desire to beat its audience into submission with a constant wall of screeching, explosions, and speed metal handily obscures a few bits of tongue-in-cheek cleverness (including the hilariously protracted death of a buddy (Jeffrey Combs-esque Grant Piro) in some treetops) and performances from its two leads that are fun in a dedicated camp sort of way. The real problem of the film, aside from its half-formed ideas and reliance on bombast, is that its villain is front and centre throughout the entire proceedings, robbed of much real menace and, in the final scene, even of her vulnerability to light. That she can ever be seen at all gives lie to the idea that she's completely averse to illumination and the use of a glow-stick as talisman pushes the trope into the ridiculous.
Still, Darkness Falls has a nice look to it, isn't edited all that poorly, and moves along well enough that most of the head-slapping comes afterwards. It's apparent that a good deal of exposition has been excised (a scene in a classroom glimpsed in the trailers is nowhere to be found here) to move things along at a healthy clip, the result of which, of course, is the loss of any sort of real weight to the lightshow and the cats jumping through windows. Compared to the superior Jeepers Creepers (a comparison the film invites with its bald similarity), the weakness of the backstory and its ultimate aggregate failure is thrown into even sharper relief--there's only so much interest things jumping randomly out of dark corners can hold for most sentient beings. In a film about a child's fear of the dark and the potential malevolence of even the innocuously supernatural, that Darkness Falls is just another slasher-in-a-mask flick is all the more disappointing. Originally published: January 24, 2003.
by Bill Chambers The "Special Edition" designation on Columbia TriStar's Darkness Falls oversells the disc's meagre offerings. Presenting the film in duelling 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and pan-and-scan transfers on the same side of an RSDL platter, the image looks compromised in both incarnations--detail is soft, bordering on fuzzy, and the greyscale seems to lack a full range. One counts on an eventual Superbit release to address these issues, which are no doubt the product of too much information competing for limited space. The DVD's audio shines, though, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix complex and aggressive, achieving true transparency during the scenes in which the Tooth Fairy is circumnavigating the characters. LFE usage is once or twice measurable on the Richter scale, while dialogue is concise and never drowned out by the hullabaloo.
One thing you won't find on the disc is a trailer. Perhaps part of the reason is studio self-consciousness, as it significantly featured an omitted prologue set in a classroom that's discussed in detail here by the filmmakers and scenarists alike. Oddly, only two of the movie's credited scribes (John Fasano and Joe Harris) participate in the "Writer Commentary"--the third, James Vanderbilt (late of Basic), joins director Jonathan Liebesman and producers William Sherak and Jason Shuman in a separate yakker. Because all of the commentators are relative newcomers to the movie business, they approach discussion with a mixture of humility and pride, with Fasano and Harris a little more gung ho to poke fun at the finished picture. Credit is always given where it's due, a rare trait sure to be phased out of these people by common jadedness--or perhaps, when it comes to Darkness Falls, credit is a matter of blame.
Extras include seven deleted scenes, none of which is the aforementioned opening; mostly these deal with a sunburst motif that had little payoff, although an elaborate chase scene must've been an expensive cut. "The Legend of Matilda Dixon" (11 mins.), a Discovery-style documentary about the Port Fairy, Australia resident on whom Darkness Falls' villainess is based, picture-in-picture Storyboard Comparisons for three key sequences, and a 17-minute making-of that's more like a tribute to the skill (or lack thereof) of the film's cast and crew round out the disc. Gotta say, however, that Lee Cormie is a real find, the first kid to do the Exorcist trope justice since Haley Joel Osment.