Darkness Falls

What a horror film tells us is that we’re afraid of the dark for a reason. Primal, irrational, pre- or proto-religious terrors are justified, because they are based on perceived realities. Darkness Falls begins with that understanding, but forgets it and falls apart after six minutes.

The premise is tired, but not bad: a woman pays children gold coins for their baby teeth (far-fetched, this, but still forgiveable), and curses vengeance on the town that hangs her. Her spirit lingers on, killing the children who lose their last baby tooth if they see her disfigured face. Again, not a brilliant concept, but one with some promise, and we think that the first few scenes will fulfill it.

We see the young Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley) in a school bathroom, pulling a tooth and some blood from his mouth1. After some awkward dialogue with his pre-teen girlfriend (they don’t talk like kids), he places the tooth under his pillow and falls asleep. In the middle of the night, he wakes up to see the tooth fairy.

The next sequence is tense and truthful about childhood fear. It is such a bummer, then, that the movie devolves into a slasher pic: a set of non-descript characters are killed by the monster – until the designated heroes (who are never in any real danger) find a way to get rid of it.

Past the first six minutes, everything is by rote and so perfunctory that it barely makes up a feature-length running time. (And the film’s eighty-seven minutes are padded by more than ten minutes (!) of credits.)

Darkness Falls dissipates the tension and mystery that the first sequence promised. The big flaw is the presentation of the tooth fairy. Throughout the film, the monster is front and center, but over-familiarity harms the impact – especially when the monster has no character or personality. The constant presence keeps it from being frightening.

Darkness Falls is emblematic of the crisis facing Hollywood, particularly in the horror genre. The movie looks good, the acting is good (for such empty characters), and the special effects look professional. But the movie is scared. Scared to take its story (and the implications that arise) seriously. A braver film would have looked at life in the town – was it complicit in the murders of the children? A braver film would have made Kyle a darker person – does he feel guilty for the death of his mom? There are veins to be mined in the stupidity here. But, ultimately, it is a waste of time.

1The blood is important. Blood disturbs, and a horror film without disturbing elements is a kiddy ride (i.e., useless). Blood also gives the scene a feeling of transition. I may be the only guy who saw this film and thought “menstruation,” but it makes sense. The image sets the tone for something dark and unnerving, about the rites of childhood and growing up. But it pisses this set-up right down its leg.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com