Darkness Falls Review
Read an alternative review by Daniel Stephens (Region 2 DVD)
The story goes that a hundred and fifty years ago, in the town of Darkness Falls, a lonely old woman called Matilda Dixon used to collect childrens' teeth and give them a coin in return. She was much loved by the townsfolk till the day she was burned in a fire and left horribly deformed and so sensitive to light that she could only emerge at night, wearing a porcelain mask to cover her face. Now feared and ostracised, she was wrongfully blamed for the disappearance of two children and lynched by a mob. With her last words, she swore revenge on the town, vowing to come back and murder children on the day they lose their last baby tooth. Legend has it that her ghost has the same aversion to light and she can only come for her victims in the dark.
In the present day, pretty Darkness Falls inhabitant Caitlin (Emma Caulfield) is worried about her young brother Michael (Lee Cormie), who's in a local psychiatric hospital, suffering from severe night terrors. The doctors are having no luck with him so Caitlin calls her childhood friend Kyle (Chaney Kley), who had the same experiences as a child and was institutionalised after the mysterious death of his mother. Even now, he sleeps surrounded by torches. Kyle agrees to come back and help Michael but not long after he arrives in town, people start to die. Suspicion naturally falls on the freak who everyone believes killed his mother. Only Kyle and Michael know who or what is really responsible.
Despite the ridiculous premise of a killer tooth fairy, Darkness Falls begins effectively enough. The opening flashback, with the young Kyle alone in his bedroom, is pretty scary. Who can't empathise with a child hearing noises in his bedroom at night and plucking up the courage to peek over the covers? Last autumn's little-seen They started with a similar scene and, incidentally, also featured spooks that lived in the dark and came back for their childhood victims as grown-ups. Chalk that up to coincidence, as the makers of Darkness Falls couldn't have seen it, though you can be fairly sure they've seen The Blair Witch Project and Candyman.
A little plagiarism is par for the course in the horror genre but the film's offences mount up. After a decent opening, it quickly degenerates into braindead trash, substituting noise and special effects for atmosphere. You never feel gripped because suspense requires logic and the screenplay supplies none. The ghost waits patiently to get her chosen victims into the dark and then every time she gets a clear opportunity, she grabs one of the supporting cast instead. She's vulnerable to electric lights until the big finale, when suddenly she can cause power cuts. Once you realise the ghost could have wiped out the heroes and the entire town a hundred times over, how can you care what set-pieces the screenwriter will devise next? It doesn't help that the main characters are devoid of personality even by horror film standards or that the CGI phantom, which recalls the ghost-face costume from Scream, is poorly rendered and onscreen far too often. All Darkness Falls really adds up to is scenes of characters scrambling to stay in the light or getting snatched by the ghost, repeated endlessly and with little variation.