Darkness Falls Review
The next time I write a horror film I’m going to send off for the fill-in-the-blanks template, so many writers seem to be using in Hollywood today. Can I have the ‘Write A Horror Film In Two Hours’ screenplay book please – the one where you just fill in the blank spaces with your own totally original character names and regurgitated dialogue. I’m sure it would resemble something like an opening page that would read – obligatory death scene: delete setting as applicable (Overtly large house/Hospital/Woods/Other large building please state/Other large open space please state). It would then go on to tell you to make sure you kill a victim within 15 pages, making sure some effort is taken in back-story exposition, and that running along darkly lit corridors is mandatory. Other choice items in this book would include cheap scares, which it claims, should occur every fifteen minutes to avoid viewers losing interest. Three endings – a fake one, a real one, and a twist one – in that order are recommended, and suggest music accompaniment containing at least one in-the-now punk-rock tune. Must-have dialogue should include - ‘you wait here’, ‘It’s all over honey’, ‘Look Out’, ‘Lets split up’, and don’t forget a generous helping of dramatic pauses.
If only this were true, it would answer a few questions that Hollywood’s latest efforts in the genre keep bringing up. Notable exceptions aside, it does amaze how multiple writers…and directors for that matter, continue to create such formulaic pulp, from the bad (Fear Dot Com) to the unbelievably bad (They). However, being formulaic in the extreme can’t destroy a film if it has the potential to be much more and this is where Darkness Falls differs, and ultimately betters its recent genre buddies. The film pretty much lives and breaths the formulaic, tried and trusted recipe, and even though three writers attach their names to the credit, it still feels like it was born out of watching all the Halloween films back to back with obvious reference to the original, and the first and third sequels. That said, I couldn’t help but enjoy the film even though I knew exactly where it was going, and while it can never be associated alongside many of the films it imitates and draws from, it does have enough entertaining moments to merit at least one viewing.
Darkness Falls tells the story of a myth come to life in the form of the Tooth Fairy. As we’re told, many moon’s ago, there was a nice old lady who gave the kids coins when they lost their teeth in exchange for the teeth themselves, but after two kids go missing, she is blamed and killed by the townsfolk – her dying words placing a curse upon the town. Flicking forward to the present day and the Tooth Fairy is back, terrorizing the kids of Darkness Falls – perhaps Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley), a grown-up who had an ‘experience’ with the Tooth Fairy when he was a child, is the only one who can save the town? However, no-one believed him when he was a child that the Tooth Fairy killed his mother, will they now?
The film doesn’t outstay its welcome as the end credits are rolling before the 75th minute, and it has plenty of shocks and surprises along the way. Emma Caulfield, fresh from Buffy fame, has no problem fitting into the role of running around looking worried, and young newcomer Lee Cormie (joining the ranks of horror film pre-teens headed up by Haley-Joel Osment) is believable as the kid who has every reason to be afraid of the dark. Perhaps Chaney Kley, who basically takes on the ‘hero’ role, doesn’t quite have enough in his acting locker to merit his screen-time, but he does however have a certain edginess that gives his character much needed credibility.
Jonathan Liebesman’s second film as director shows a lot of promise, even if he doesn’t try anything new with the material. The plot is join-the-dots stuff, but he throws in some well-orchestrated, suspenseful action sequences that maintain the tension, and he feeds us the odd twist now and again to keep things interesting. The opening sequence, for example, is genuinely creepy and the Tooth Fairy herself is a superb CGI creation – we may see a little bit too much of her, leaving rather little to the imagination, but it certainly is a well-designed monster.
Darkness Falls is an enjoyable, if predictable thriller that has plenty of jump-out-your-seat moments and a good deal of suspense throughout. It moves along at quite a pace, and clocking in at just over 70 minutes minus the credits, it hardly outstays its welcome.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, which is the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio. The image is quite superb, displaying long periods of dark photography with wonderful clarity. Sharpness and detail are excellent, even in harshly lit scenes, and the picture has a lot of depth showing the original print as it was intended. The print used is in perfect condition.
As if the image wasn’t good enough, Columbia TriStar have provided a wonderful Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that has to be one of the best I’ve heard. Liebesman provides plenty of ‘jumps’ and the soundtrack is what almost lifts you out of your seat. The low-end sounds rumble and brood under the fantastic surround action, with the Tooth Fairy literally spinning round the room, not allowing you to trace where she will pop-up next. In a scene late in the film, where the characters are attacked in a police station, the sound superbly distorts the viewer adding a great deal of tension to the scene. The rears are used extensively (there’s something behind you!), and the surround track is used extremely well to create a spatial, actuality.
Commentaries - Two commentaries are present on the DVD, the better of which contains director Jonathan Liebesman, with producers William Sherak and Jason Shuman, and writer James Vanderbilt. They are good speakers who all seem happy to talk about their creation, enthusiastically and without leaving long pauses. Some anecdotes about the movie process mutate into self-indulgence, but it is their enthusiasm about their work that is the most endearing. The second commentary contains the two writers who wrote the film before James Vanderbilt re-wrote their draft, and they have a lot of interesting information about how the film came about, and how it changed and progressed to what we see in the final cut. Again, they are enthusiastic speakers but their little quips do come with a helping of self-indulgence.
The Legend Of Matilda Dixon - Much like the mocumentary that followed-up The Blair Witch Project, claiming the events in the film were real and that the investigation into the three filmmaker’s disappearance was on-going, this little featurette claims that the film is based on true events. It is well made and for the most part it works nicely as a fun little additional feature (it certainly could be used to scare the kids after they watch the film), but the acting isn’t up to scratch and so at times, it couldn’t be more obvious that the film is scripted.
Making Of - A good, but short ‘making-of’ that contains all the major players from the production of the film, including the main actors. There is a lot of information crammed into less than 20 minutes, and most of it is interesting, focusing mainly on what makes a ‘good’ horror film.
Deleted Scenes - Seven deleted scenes are present on the disc, however, they are not accompanied by a commentary explaining why they were cut. This isn’t surprising as it is quite obvious – some scenes add a little story information but they are largely unneeded, and others were clearly cut for pacing reasons.
Storyboard Comparison - The storyboards for four scenes are run next to the final cut of the film.
Trailers - Trailers for Darkness Falls, Anger Management and XXX are present on the DVD.
*Subtitle Information - The additional features are subtitled in English, Spanish and Dutch. The film is subtitled in English amongst many others, and additionally in English specifically for the hearing impaired.
An enjoyable horror receives excellent treatment on this region 2 DVD. Picture and sound are superb, and the film is complemented by a good set of additional features that range from the informative (commentaries, making-of) to the interestingly, entertaining (The Legend Of Matilda Dixon).