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Darkness Falls

01/03/2003. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Darkness Falls in the USA - or Buy Darkness Falls in the UK

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Darkness Falls is the latest slight and extraneous scarefest to hit the big screen in dull, meaningless fashion. Director Jonathan Liebesman helms a ridiculously familiar and arbitrary cheesy horror tale that doesn't effectively challenge the simple conventions of the fright genre.

Darkness Falls (2003) Columbia Pictures. 1 hour 16 minutes. Starring: Emma Caulfield, Chaney Kley, Joshua Anderson, Andrew Bayly, Emily Browning, Mark Blackmore, Antony Burrows, Lee Cormie, Peter Curtain. Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman.

With its cheap poke at chill tactics and lousy special effects that dresses up the laughable ghoulish goings-on, Darkness Falls is about as scary as being trapped in a dank basement with someone who has bad breath!

There's nothing remotely original or unique about Liebesman's supposedly spine-tingling narrative. Someone needs to shine the light of creativity on the boneheaded attempt to parlay Darkness Falls into a viable goosebump experience.



So if you're in the mood for the predictable antics of a superfluous boo flick that relishes the thought of cranking up the noise factor in order for you to tremble in your seat or appreciate the nonsensical one-liners that are routinely uttered as the pseudo-creepiness unfolds then this display of vapid haunting high jinks is certainly for you.

The inspiration for Liebesman's breezy and lopsided thrill ride is derived by screenwriter/filmmaker Joseph Harris's short film The Tooth Fairy.

Here's the "reel" deal: the epitome of evilness lurks in the ominous town of Darkness Falls where the daunting folklore involves the presence of an avenging ghostly disfigured woman (in this case, she's known as the Tooth Fairy) coming back from the dead to wreak havoc on a sleepy community that unjustly hung her well over a century ago for a crime she didn't commit.

We're told how this kind but eccentric Darkness Falls older woman liked to collect baby teeth from the kiddies thus giving them coins while suffering from her share of personal mishaps (mainly, a house fire caused some damage to her face hence she had to don a porcelain mask for her scarred light-sensitive kisser).

Troubles for the unfortunate woman mounted when a couple of children were suspiciously missing from the scene. Hastily blamed for the disappearance of the two tykes, this all but convincingly sealed the fate of the poor misunderstood hideous hag.

Of course the film wants to get its self-inflicted chuckles out of the legendary story of the gentle "Tooth Fairy" by perversely turning the mythical good-natured children's icon into a twisted "killer" concept if you get the drift. Yeah, real funny and cynically warped, huh?

So what's the purpose of the TF's motives for revisiting a place that unfairly snuffed the life out of her ages ago? Well silly, pay attention-the presumptuous residents of Darkness Falls took her life and now the present-day innocent bystanders must pay with their own lives if not the lives of their impressionable youngsters.

Yikes! Hey, you know what they say-payback is a b*tch! Or how about the adage that revenge can be awfully sweet? Whatever the sentiment, the ghastly grandmotherly Tooth Fairy with the dental hygiene hang-up has schemed for countless years in corralling her prey in the darkness of night since she's afraid of the light for reasons mentioned previously.

Hence, the annoyingly repetitive tagline of someone aimlessly yelling "GET INTO THE LIGHT" plays like some lame catchphrase shtick meant to boost up the forced urgency of this forgettable schlock session.

In case you need to know, other identifiable protagonists are involved in this misguided mayhem besides the slaughtering spirit of Grandma Grisly. Disillusioned Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley) is one such victim of the dastardly Tooth Fairy since that memorable frightening evening when the perturbed poltergeist gored his mother when he lost his last baby tooth.

Kyle had been institutionalized for a number of years due to the gory aftermath of the TF's dirty deeds. Anyway, Kyle has mustered enough courage to return to Darkness Falls to assist his childhood sweetie Caitlin (Emma Caulfield from television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) from the chaos that constantly ensues.

Unfortunately, Caitlin wasn't on hand to protect her 10-year-old brother Michael (Lee Cormie) from the horrifying presence of the persistent Tooth Fairy.

Nevertheless, lucky Michael did survive the TF's wrath but paid dearly for the dubious encounter. As a final result, the kid is hospitalized based on the trauma of his regrettable confrontation.

There are a lot of stultifying lapses and plausibility issues that plague the cockeyed logic behind this disjointed disposition. Even though Darkness Falls is a lethargic thriller that's certainly not going to inspire any genuine sophisticated horror-induced emotions, it doesn't even bother to take the time or effort to even pose as a passable low-grade spook vehicle. Along with Harris, the scripting by John Fasano and James Vanderbilt is lazy, spotty and amazingly uneventful.

The situational set-ups don't make any sense whatsoever even from an intentionally campy and carefree point of view. Case in point: If Darkness Falls has been stalked by the infamously dangerous and irksome Tooth Fairy predator after so many generations, then why are the dimwitted townspeople still living in such a disastrous and undesirable venue?

Wouldn't common sense dictate that if your loved ones are being butchered randomly by a scabrous spirit that one might take the hint and move the heck out of there? And how convenient (and cutesy) that a place named Darkness Falls should undergo a nighttime power outage therefore stressing the overdramatic need to grasp for lightness much like when one gets desperate for a canteen in the middle of a scorching desert?

Plus, doesn't this modern-day town believe in this little known invention called the generator? Can someone explain the neat trick of why everything is considered so inoperable at the hospital where Michael is staying at yet the elevators seem to run as smooth as silk? And by the way, wouldn't the Tooth Fairy reluctantly have to tolerate the light in order to claim her victim seeing as though the targeted person would see her in the light to begin with?

After all, the folks would have to be blatantly clueless, dense and extremely idiotic to roam around at night without any light source in order to be harmed by the haggard mauling mistress of misery.

Believe me, nitpicking about this jittery junk and its inconsistent pockets of wayward inclinations is the least of problems regarding Liebesman's disposable and distracting hair-raising enterprise. What's more offensive is the haphazard way of presenting this numbing and colossally dumb exorcise as yet another example of exploiting the mindset of the Scream movie-going sect by callously conjuring up a caustic albeit clumsy-minded clunker in disguise of shocking guilty pleasure entertainment.

Although most bad horror movies joyfully concentrate its focus on elements such as transparent character development, hokey horrific circumstances, overindulgent background "mood" music to aid the weak suspense being put forth and falsifying edgy moments meant to make one cringe at selective times, Darkness Falls violates this code of conduct ten times over in an embarrassing, protrusive manner.

It's an interesting premise when you think about it-the beloved and beautiful Tooth Fairy, the Goddess of Gums turned into a sour and sinister old supernatural fogey forced to walk on the deadly side courtesy of the fickle society that once treasured her mystical mirthfulness.

However, the moviemakers behind Darkness Falls never made the solid commitment to invest any formidable credibility or cunning satirical insight into this harried, relentlessly incompetent corroding showcase.

The villainous life-snatching Fairy and all her unwilling on screen participants suffer in what amounts to be a serious case of cinematic tooth decay. Suffice to say, Darkness Falls has no real bite in its withering chompers.

Frank rates this film: * stars (out of 4 stars)

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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